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The Richard III Society

Promoting research into the life and times of Richard III since 1924

Patron: HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO

Richard III


His life & death

His family

His leadership

His appearance

The controversies

richardiii coat of arms


His Family

His Father - Richard, Duke of York

by Matthew Lewis

     Author of Richard duke of York, King by Right

The Duke of York

Richard, 3rd Duke of York was born on 21 September 1411, the second surviving child and first surviving son of Richard of Conisburgh, later Earl of Cambridge and his wife Anne Mortimer. Richard of Conisburgh was the younger son of Edmund, 1st Duke of York and therefore a grandson of King Edward III. Edmund’s older son Edward became 2nd Duke of York on their father’s death in 1402. Anne Mortimer was the daughter of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March and sister to Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March.

Anne Mortimer died shortly after the birth of her son Richard, perhaps from complications following the delivery. Richard of Conisburgh was created Earl of Cambridge by Henry V in 1414 but given insufficient income to support himself. Resentment at his treatment may have led to his involvement in the Southampton Plot to unseat Henry V and place Richard’s brother-in-law Edmund Mortimer on the throne. Edmund himself exposed the plot to Henry V and Richard was executed on 5 August 1415. Edward, 2nd Duke of York was the highest profile English casualty at the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 1415. He died without any legitimate children, so the dukedom passed to his nephew, Richard, who became 3rd Duke of York.

During the remainder of Henry V’s rule, Richard was placed into the care of Sir Robert Waterton, who was also gaoler to several of the most famous French prisoners captured at Agincourt. It is possible that Richard met these men and heard their tales of warning about a kingdom ruled by a mentally unstable king, riven by faction and laid open to foreign invasion. If he did, they may well have left a lasting impression. Shortly after Henry V’s death in 1422, Richard became a ward of Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, whose investment of 3,000 marks soon paid dividends. In 1425, Richard’s maternal uncle Edmund, Earl of March died without a legitimate heir and Richard inherited the vast wealth and holdings of the Mortimer family, concentrated on the Welsh borders. Richard was married soon after to Ralph’s youngest daughter Cecily Neville.

In 1428 Richard was summoned to attend the court of his seven-year-old second cousin, once removed, King Henry VI. As he moved closer to the age of majority, this may have been a move to bring him into the centre of government or to keep a closer watch on one deemed a potential threat. The Mortimer family had been viewed as Richard II’s heirs presumptive before Henry IV had taken the throne. Richard’s position as Duke of York and, more importantly, as the Mortimer heir might have made the Lancastrian regime nervous. On 6 November 1429 Richard attended Henry’s coronation at Westminster Abbey and in 1430 he travelled to France where he was a high-profile attendee of Henry’s coronation as King of France in Paris on 16 December 1431.

Richard was permitted to take up livery in 1432, when he was declared of age. He was 3rd Duke of York, 4th Earl of Cambridge, 6th Earl of March, 2nd Earl of Rutland and 7th Earl of Ulster as well as holding a host of lordships. The wealthy Mortimer inheritance helped resolve the debts that had mired the dukedom of York since Edward’s time, leaving it all but bankrupt. When King Henry’s uncle John, Duke of Bedford died it left the critical position of Regent of France vacant. Two factions had been at loggerheads for years during Henry’s childhood; one led by his other paternal uncle Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and the other by his great uncle Cardinal Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, who had been bankrolling the government for many years. The Cardinal wished to promote his nephews but Gloucester chose Richard for the position and he was appointed lieutenant-general in France for one year.

Arriving in France in June 1436, Richard established himself at Rouen, the capital of Normandy, due to the fall of Paris two months earlier. The short term of his appointment and the reduction in powers from those of a regent severely hampered Richard’s effort. He left military matters to the vastly experienced John Talbot and focussed on administration, though he did step up the tactic of destroying recaptured, strategically unimportant castles to avoid the constant expense of losing and retaking them. At the end of Richard’s term, he made it known that he wished to return home but was required to await the arrival of his replacement, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick in November 1437. Warwick died in post on 30 April 1439 and Richard was selected to return to France, this time for a five-year term and with increased powers. This period can be characterised as solid rather than spectacular. Richard maintained good relations with the French and concluded a peace treaty with Burgundy.

At the end of this term, Richard returned to England, apparently expecting to be reappointed, but on Christmas Eve 1446, Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset was given the post and Richard was made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In early 1447, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester was arrested and died in custody amid suspicion that he plotted against his nephew the king. Richard’s close association to the duke may have increased the suspicion around him and he decided to take up the role in Ireland in person. Richard arrived in Ireland in July 1449 and received a rapturous welcome, since his Mortimer heritage also brought him strong connections to Ireland. As had been the case in France, Richard soon found himself unpaid and out of pocket as he financed the government himself.

In 1450, following Cade’s Rebellion (which had links to the Mortimer name), Richard returned to England but when he landed, attempts were made to arrest him. The following decade would be spent in opposition to the court party around Henry VI, initially to Edmund Beaufort and then to Margaret of Anjou, Henry’s queen. By 1452, Richard was claiming that Beaufort was operating a whispering campaign against him. He raised an army and marched to Dartford, south of London. When Henry sent emissaries to obtain Richard’s demands, he asked for the arrest of Edmund Beaufort. When the king agreed to this term, Richard disbanded his men and went to the king, only to find that Beaufort was still at Henry’s side and it was Richard who was taken into custody and forced to swear an oath of allegiance to Henry at St Paul’s Cathedral.

When King Henry was left incapacitated by a bout of mental illness, a choice had to be made between Margaret and Richard to lead the government. Misogyny and mistrust of the French probably combined to influence the decision to appoint Richard as Lord Protector. His time in office marked a notably even-handed period with genuine efforts to resolve the problems of crown finances. When Henry recovered on Christmas Day 1454, he was swift to remove Richard and restore Edmund Beaufort. The now intractable dispute led to a confrontation at the First Battle of St Albans on 22 May 1455 during which Edmund Beaufort was killed and King Henry was injured. Richard was installed again as Lord Protector, though only briefly, before finding himself once more in the political wilderness.

Despite Henry’s efforts to reconcile the factions at his court, culminating in the Love Day of 24 March 1458, matters again came to a head in 1459 when Richard gathered another army in an apparent repeat of 1452. He left Ludlow but turned back at Worcester when he received news that Henry was approaching at the head of a numerically superior army. When part of York’s army deserted from Ludlow, he and his noble allies fled the town into exile. They were attainted and stripped of all their lands and titles. When Richard returned to England in 1460, with Henry a captive after the Battle of Northampton, it was to claim the throne by virtue of his Mortimer blood. Parliament eventually settled the matter in the Act of Accord, allowing Henry to remain king for his lifetime but appointing Richard and his heirs as Henry’s heirs.

On 30 December 1460, Richard was at Sandal Castle waiting to confront an army raised by Margaret of Anjou. According to An English Chronicle, Richard was tricked into leading his army into battle by Baron Neville, who then turned on him. Richard and his second son Edmund were killed. Richard’s oldest son went on to take the throne as Edward IV and his youngest son would later rule as Richard III. Through his granddaughter Elizabeth of York, Richard is a direct ancestor of all English and British monarchs from Henry VIII onwards. He is often remembered as a proud, belligerent and bellicose man, yet the story of his life is one of impeccable service until he fell into conflict with those around the king. He would not challenge Henry’s right to the crown for a further decade, following an attainder that left him with nothing else to lose.

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His Mother - Cecily, Duchess of York

by Dr Joanna Laynesmith

The Duchess of York

Cecily Neville, Duchess of York
Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, redrawn by
Geoffrey Wheeler © from an illumination
in the Neville Book of Hours
(Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris,
Paris: MS Latin 1158, f. 34v)
One of Richard III's most unnatural crimes, according to Tudor propaganda, was his false accusation that his own mother, Cecily Neville, was an adulteress. Polydore Vergil asserted that she 'complanyd afterward in sundry places to right many noblemen …of that great injury'. More recently Michael K Jones has suggested that Edward IV really was a bastard and that Richard's claim to the throne was largely inspired by this fact, abetted by his mother. The nature of Richard's relationship with Cecily remains one of the many mysteries surrounding his accession to the throne. Cecily herself is one of the best documented and most fascinating women of the fifteenth-century. She was, for a time, the most powerful woman in England and she was an astonishing political survivor through many regime changes.


Cecily was born in 1415, the daughter of a staunchly Lancastrian family, and she was married to Richard duke of York before her tenth birthday. He was her father’s ward, the orphaned son of a traitor but also the heir to a huge fortune and a potential claim to the throne of England. After a ‘long time of barrenness’, they had twelve children, seven of whom survived infancy. It appears to have been a happy marriage – York trusted her to act on his behalf in business and politics and he spent huge sums on her clothes and jewels. Cecily’s youngest surviving children were Margaret (future duchess of Burgundy), George and Richard. These children were with her during some of the most traumatic years of her life, as the Lancastrian kingship collapsed and her husband made his unsuccessful bid for the throne of England. She would have supervised their early education, perhaps taught them to read.


Bruges – home to Richard for a few months
In the winter of 1460/61 Yorkist fortunes were at their lowest, with the duke of York's death at Wakefield and the earl of Warwick's defeat at St Albans. For their safety Cecily sent the boys, aged just eleven and eight, to the court of the duke of Burgundy. Her decision to remain in London to defend the interests of her only other surviving son, the eighteen-year-old Edward, earl of March, indicates her priorities and her ambition for her family. Immediately after their return to England the king's little brothers, like their mother, probably spent much of their time within the royal household. Richard may well have been nearly thirteen before he left the regular company of his mother for the household of the earl of Warwick.


As king’s mother, Cecily used her own vast wealth and wide administration to support Edward IV’s policies. One observer claimed in 1461 that Cecily 'can rule the king as she pleases', although it seems unlikely that she retained such influence as Edward grew older. Decades later, writers plausibly recorded that she was appalled by Edward IV’s choice of queen. Nonetheless, Cecily loaned one of her longest-serving gentlewomen to the new queen’s household and later events indicate that if there were tensions early on these were very soon resolved.

Family Division

The year 1469 was to prove the first real test in Cecily's relations with her sons. This was the year that George, duke of Clarence, joined forces with his father-in-law, the earl of Warwick, to rebel against and imprison Edward IV. It was at this time that the first rumours that Edward IV was alleged to be a bastard emerged – it was a very common trope in medieval propaganda and there is no evidence that anyone actually believed it. Richard was steadfastly loyal to Edward, despite his own connections with Warwick. When Clarence and Warwick rebelled again in 1470 to reinstate Henry VI, Richard fled, like Edward, to Burgundy. But where did Cecily stand? Before Clarence and Warwick set sail for Calais from where they launched their initial rebellion Cecily spent five days with them at Sandwich. Michael Jones has surmised that she had fallen out with Edward and was in favour of the rebellion. Yet only months earlier Edward had named his second daughter after Cecily and as soon as Edward regained his throne in 1471 he took his family to join his mother at Baynard's Castle.Cecily the Widow
Cecily the Widow.
© Geoffrey Wheeler


My suspicion is that Cecily knew nothing of rebellion but was aware of Clarence's plan to marry Warwick's eldest daughter in defiance of the king. This suggests that for all her loyalty to Edward, Cecily did not always put him entirely before her other sons - she wanted George to marry England's most eligible heiress. Throughout Henry VI’s readeption she remained in London, and hosted visitors including Lady Margaret Beaufort, but she also worked to persuade Duke George to switch back to supporting his brother.


Her relationship with Richard in the 1470s is perhaps best illustrated by records of a land dispute in Essex that arose between their servants. Richard had a financial interest in the land himself, but surviving letters reveal his willingness to allow Cecily to lay down the terms and place of negotiation. Ultimately the affair was settled entirely in her man's favour. Cecily's letters also indicate her affection for Richard: she expressed regret that he had not been able to visit her recently when Edward was with her at Berkhamsted, yet she had seen Richard only a few weeks previously at Syon.

Cecily's Piety

John the Baptist
John the Baptist
© Geoffrey Wheeler
By the 1470s Cecily was developing a greater interest in religion and she may have shared some of this with Richard. Notably he and Anne owned a copy of Mechtild of Hackeborn's mystical account of her visions, The Booke of Gostlye Grace, a text which Cecily also owned. They may well have shared a wider interest in Carthusian spirituality. Although Cecily has sometimes been cited as a woman of exceptional piety, it is really the wealth of records for her religious interests that is unusual. Her much-written of daily routine of masses and devotional reading was similar to that recommended to all noblewomen and her religious patronage was relatively minor, especially compared with Richard’s own.

Richard's Accession

Baynards Castle
Baynards Castle – Cecily's London home
This is about as much as we know about the relationship between mother and son before 1483. How far then did she acquiesce in his actions that summer? His use of her London home, Baynard's Castle, suggests that she was not wholly opposed to his actions, yet she was not present at his coronation and indeed there are no records to indicate whether she was in London or Berkhamsted that summer.


There were rumours in London that Richard considered claiming the throne on the grounds that Edward IV was a bastard. However, there is no indication of such a justification in any official records. It may well be that London gossip was merely recalling the slanders that had surfaced five years earlier at the trial of Richard’s brother, George, duke of Clarence. However, this story suited later Tudor writers, especially Polydore Vergil, who wanted to gloss over the evidence that Richard III took the throne by arguing that Edward IV’s marriage was invalid and his children (including Henry VII’s queen) were bastards.


My suspicion is that Cecily did not actively promote Richard's accession, but equally did not oppose it either. She was pragmatic enough to recognise the risks for the House of York and England that a child king would bring. By contrast her youngest son was a proven politician and warrior. Richard’s only surviving letter to his mother during his reign was written in June 1484. The wording seems to imply that there was no animosity between them but that they did not see each other on a very regular basis, 'Madam, I heartily beseech you that I may often hear from you to my comfort', Richard wrote. If Cecily really resented Richard as Vergil claimed there would be little point in his writing such words. In May 1485, he spent a few days with her at Berkhamsted. That was probably the last time that she saw him before his death at Bosworth.

Henry VII’s Reign

Berkhampstead Castle
Berkhampstead Castle where Cecily died
After Richard’s death at Bosworth, Cecily reinvented her identity, as she had done at successive regime changes in the past. She was sometimes referred to as ‘the queen’s grandmother’ although she more often used variants on 'wife unto the right noble prince Richard late Duke of Yorke, fader unto the most cristen prince my Lord and son King Edward the iiijth'. As far as I am aware, only one surviving document connected with her administration referred to her as mother of Richard as well as Edward (and that was destined for a poor priory, unlikely ever to be seen by royal officials). Such a coldly political approach is disappointing to the modern reader, but Cecily was responsible not only for her own survival but also for the wellbeing of her huge affinity. From 1485-95 she worked with many of those closest to Henry VII and even appointed some of his councillors as executors of her will. This wonderfully detailed document is remarkable for its unusual focus on her servants’ wellbeing. She died at the age of eighty, and was remembered as ‘a woman of small stature, but of much honour and high parentage’.

A version of this article was first published in the Ricardian Bulletin Autumn 2005. Updated following publication of J. L. Laynesmith, Cecily Duchess of York (Bloomsbury, 2017)

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His Brother - George, Duke of Clarence, 1449-78

by Prof Michael Hicks


George, Duke of Clarence, was the middle brother: his elder brother was King Edward IV and his younger brother was King Richard III. The careers of George and Richard were entwined at many points. They grew up together, clashed in the most major political crisis of the 1470s, and if George had not been put to death by their brother Edward, Richard would not have become king in 1483.

George is remembered in history as 'False, Fleeting, Perjur'd Clarence' — Shakespeare's description — and because he was drowned in malmsey wine. Certainly, he perjured himself several times and aspired to wear a crown to which he was not entitled. Yet there was much more to George than simply an ambitious and courageous perjurer. He was just as talented as his brothers, claimed the Crowland Chronicler: just as effective an orator and as dangerous a demagogue, an idol of the multitude, as his father York or father-in-law the Kingmaker. What a pity that we have nothing concrete with which to substantiate these characteristics.


Bruges – home to Richard for a few months
Bruges – home to Richard for a few monthsGeorge Plantagenet was fourth son of Richard, Duke of York (1411-60), and Cecily Neville. York was the greatest nobleman of his age. York was lieutenant – that is, governor and commander-in-chief – in turn of both Henry VI's kingdom of France and of Ireland, and three times lord protector of England. During the 1450s he led the cause of reform against King Henry's favourites and in 1460 laid claim to the crown of England, setting his Clarence/ Mortimer claim against that of Lancaster, persuading parliament successfully to recognise him as heir presumptive on Henry VI's death. That achievement transformed the prospects of all his surviving children: George and Richard, now of political significance, were despatched to the safety of the Low Countries. Until then neither boy was of much account.

Seven of York's children reached maturity, four of them sons: George was the third of these; Richard was the fourth and the last to survive infancy. George was born in Dublin in 1449, during York's residence in Ireland as lieutenant. Members of both the great Anglo-Irish houses of Butler and FitzGerald were his godparents. Nothing more is recorded of the upbringing of any of York's younger children until 1459. The two eldest surviving sons were residing separately at Ludlow in the mid-1450s and the two elder daughters, Anne in 1445 and Elizabeth in 1458, were married to ducal husbands. By implication Margaret (born 1446), George (b. 1449), and Richard (b. 1452) remained with their mother, the Duchess Cecily. With her they were placed in the custody of their aunt Anne, Duchess of Buckingham, in 1459 until their father, Richard, Duke of York, established his claim to the crown in 1460. What Duke Richard had in mind for them is uncertain. His eldest sons Edward and Edmund were to be noblemen. Since neither George nor Richard was earmarked for an ecclesiastical career, so each was to remain a layman and to pursue a secular, genteel and knightly career.

Edward's Heir

Tutbury Castle
Tutbury Castle.
Courtesy of Gerhard Jooste
The first stage of the Wars of the Roses ended in the triumph of the House of York. York himself was slain, but his eldest son became King Edward IV on 4 March 1461. Since Edmund had also perished, George as next surviving brother was now heir to the crown and Richard was third in line. Though still too young to be effective politically, they had symbolic significance, as assurances that the new dynasty had come to stay and as potential cements by marriage to diplomatic alliances. Of course George, as the older, was much the more important. Each was knighted, elevated to the Garter, and created duke. George took the title of Clarence that was a potent reminder of the hereditary title of the Yorkists to the crown. George was appointed to high office, as Lieutenant of Ireland and High Steward of England for the coronation, although too young actually to exercise them in person. Each boy was also granted great estates, theoretically. As neither was of age, their brother the king continued to draw the revenues and felt free to revise what had been allocated: the grants were earnests of the king's intention to endow them in due course sufficiently to support their estates as royal dukes. In 1464 George was granted the whole county palatine of Chester, the normal patrimony of the heir presumptive, but only very briefly. During these years, the boys had their own establishment, their own residence in a tower at Greenwich Palace, and their own staff: Master John Tapton was Clarence's chancellor and Sir Robert Wingfield was supervisor of his livelihood. There apparently they resided continually, except when required for ceremonial and state occasions, such as the Leicester parliament of 1463 and the queen's coronation in 1465. About that time, Duke Richard was removed to the household of the earl of Warwick, where he apparently remained until declared of age in 1468 - 1469. George was declared of age on 10 July 1466. Although still only sixteen years old, like other royalty George's majority was advanced, presumably to make him more politically useful.

Edward IV was obliged to endow his brothers to the tune of 2,000 marks a year (£1,366 13s. 4d.), the qualifying income of a duke, but clearly intended to be much more generous. In 1467 he committed himself to 5,600 marks a year (£3,368) for George, eventually (with reversions) £4,400. If not quite of the front rank, such munificence raised George above all contemporary nobles except Warwick, Buckingham, and Norfolk. George had estates in Northumberland, Yorkshire, Kent and the West Country when he did homage in July 1466, but it was to Tutbury in Staffordshire that he departed in November. Apparently he had already decided – or perhaps Edward had decided for him – that his estates in the North Midlands, by themselves together worth £1,350, were to be his principal residence and sphere of influence. Since Queen Margaret had based herself in the area late in the 1450s, Tutbury Castle may not have been altogether neglected, but we know that Clarence undertook great building works there, scarcely a recognisable vestige of which survives or is recorded (the Rous Roll). Presumably it was adapted to accommodate the enormous household of 399 anticipated in 1468 in his household ordinance. That proper regulation of his household was desirable is suggested by the Lichfield prostitute frequented by fourteen members of his household in 1466 (Goodman). Great lords sought order and accountability with conspicuous consumption and splendid display. If Clarence really applied his ordinance, which planned for annual expenditure on his household of £4,500 a year, then the court that he held at Tutbury was as impressive as any of which we know. Still in his teens, he rated himself most highly. At the very least he needed to marry a great heiress to raise his revenues up to his expenses. At this point, he parted company with his brother Edward IV.

A Rebellious Brother

Duke of Clarence
George, Duke of Clarence based on the Rous Roll.
© Geoffrey Wheeler
George, Duke of Clarence based on the Rous Roll. © Geoffrey WheelerWe cannot really know what prompted Clarence to rebel. Evidently he wanted more than he had and what the king gave him. He had lost the county of Chester, most probably on Edward's marriage, and had ceased to be heir to the throne with the birth of Princess Elizabeth in 1466. He was not alone if he believed that the male line should take priority, nor if he doubted the validity of Edward's marriage and hence the legitimacy of his children. Moreover he wanted to marry the eldest daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker, the greatest possible heiress, who may have brought with her promise of an immediate subsidy; Edward, however, objected and hoped to arrange a marriage diplomatically advantageous to himself. George married Isabel Neville nevertheless on 12 July 1469 and joined Warwick at once in rebellion against the king. Whatever his reasons, this was a breach of the allegiance due from him as a subject, let alone as the king's brother. Warwick had many other grievances, some self-interested, others on policy and principle, and committed himself to reform. Many people at the time and historians for three centuries afterwards thought that he was justified. Edward's favourites were destroyed at Edgecote, the king himself was confined, and a parliament was summoned, most probably to create a protectorate for Warwick, perhaps to restore Clarence as heir. When their regime collapsed, Warwick and Clarence were pardoned in December 1469, but excluded from power. Thwarted, yet not deflected from their objectives, and perhaps fearful that Edward was merely biding his time, Warwick and Clarence fomented the Lincolnshire Rebellion early in 1470, this time with a view to putting Clarence on the throne: King George I. The plot failed. They were driven into exile abroad and, from desperation, Warwick allied himself to Queen Margaret of Anjou to put King Henry VI on the throne. This alliance succeeded: Henry VI was king once more, Clarence his next heir but one, and Edward IV an exile. After their defeat, Clarence was comprehended in Warwick's negotiations, his ambitions dropped. Whilst he secured restoration of his lands, or most of them, Clarence was now an anomaly, resented by returning Lancastrians whose advancement he obstructed, and certainly no better off than he was before. When his mother, sisters, and other close kin pressed him to revert to the Yorkist cause, he was persuaded, transferring with his forces to Edward IV. He was perjured; yet he sought to persuade Warwick to join him, unsuccessfully (The Arrivall). Clarence fought at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury. Edward IV was king once more and his son, the future Edward V, was heir.

Signature of the duke of Clarence
Signature of the duke of Clarence
redrawn by Piat Design.
When Clarence returned to his allegiance, all was forgiven. His offences were wiped out and he was restored to his estates. His service at Barnet and then at Tewkesbury had been essential for Edward IV's victory. King Edward owed him. Under such circumstances, he could not be deprived of his wife's inheritance by the forfeiture of her father Warwick. He was allowed to take instant possession of everything except the northern estates in tail male, which were granted to Gloucester. Clarence also took custody of his sister-in-law Anne Neville, widow of Edward of Lancaster. Unfortunately the Warwick inheritance dispute sullied the relations of the three royal brothers.

The Warwick Inheritance

Warwick the Kingmaker and his wife
Warwick the Kingmaker and his wife. Based on Rous Roll.
© Geoffrey Wheeler
Apart from the tail male estates, the Duchess Isabel and Anne Neville had been their parents' heiresses. The Countess Anne however survived until 1492: until then, neither daughter had any rights to her Beauchamp and Despenser estates or her jointure and were entitled to share only the rump of Warwick's Salisbury estates. However Warwick had died a traitor and his estates should have been forfeited. Actually Clarence received all to which his duchess was heiress from either parent: whilst her hereditary expectations were taken into account, his title was by royal grant. He did not intend Anne to inherit or remarry. She however married Gloucester, who laid claim to half the Beauchamp, Despenser and Salisbury lands, probably in addition to the Neville lands. Edward IV imposed as settlement the division of all four inheritances. All three brothers agreed not to attaint Warwick or his brother Montagu, but to dispossess the Countess Anne and Montagu's son of their entitlements. Crowland found the settlement profoundly shocking. If this allowed Clarence to secure his duchess' heritage ahead of time, he was nevertheless deprived of much that he had received in 1471 even though his brother's marriage to Anne Neville was never valid [For an alternative perspective on this see the following article and here]. Clarence resisted implementation of this dubious settlement but was obliged to comply: in punishment, he was deprived of his Tutbury estates, so he benefited little on balance from his duchess' inheritance. It is not surprising that he resented the way that he had been treated

Reconciliation with Edward

Only six years passed between Clarence's reconciliation with his brother in 1471 and his fall in 1477. He was appointed great chamberlain of England, councillor of the new Prince of Wales who had supplanted him as heir, attended the council, parliament, and state ceremonies, and took one of the largest retinues on Edward's invasion of France in 1475. Whilst he had lands all over the country, his principal estates were in the North Midlands until 1473, in the West Midlands, and in the West Country: he is recorded occasionally commuting from Warwick via Tewkesbury to Tiverton in Devon. He is revealed by John Rous as lord of Warwick in the Beauchamp tradition. He fathered four children, two of whom outlived him. Following his duchess' death in 1476, he appears to have believed her poisoned by her attendant Ankarette Twynho, who – in a shocking display of arbitrary power – he abducted from her home in Dorset to Warwick, where he was most powerful. She was put on trial, all stages being completed in one day, and executed. This is the most convincing proof of Clarence's overwhelming power in his home country.

Treason and Death

Several factors contributed to Clarence's rupture with his king in 1477. Following his duchess' death, he was in the market for a second consort. The opportunity arose with the death of Charles, Duke of Burgundy, whose duchess – his sister Margaret of York—favoured Clarence as consort to her step-daughter Mary, Clarence's step-niece, 'the greatest heiress of her time'. Clarence would have become an important sovereign prince. Such a match might have been thought in England's national interest, but Edward IV thwarted it. Perhaps he feared what use Clarence would make of such promotion; perhaps he did not want his brother advanced; most probably he wanted to avoid foreign entanglements and expense, a breach with France or the loss of his French pension – a priority that restricted his diplomatic independence and ultimately failed. Clarence reportedly attended council less frequently and contributed little when there. In private he complained against Edward and Edward railed against Clarence, but their comments were relayed from each to other. Reportedly Clarence feared that the king sought his ruin as a candle consumes in burning. Sibling rivalries overcame the proper relations of the monarch and his greatest subject.

Clarence's trusted retainer Thomas Burdet and two astrologers supposedly cast the king's horoscope, which, under contemporary law, was treasonable. All were convicted and executed, Burdet declaring his innocence. Clarence had his protestation read out at the royal council. Whilst surely right to stand up for his retainer, it was this act, which cast doubt on royal justice that prompted Edward to imprison him. Probably it was only later that the Twynho affair came into play. Clarence's arrest did not presume the death penalty, nor did it constitute treason, nor was the duke (so far as we know) implicated in any other treasons. Yet he was to be charged, tried and executed for treason in a parliament specially summoned for this purpose in January 1478. The act of attainder mentions a number of offences, none of them actually treasonable, such as the Twynho affair, railing against the king, and his claim to be the Lancastrian heir. No doubt Edward's decision was related to events in 1469-71, even though Clarence's offences then had been pardoned and wiped clean. Crowland did not consider the charges worthy of mention in his elaborate account. The surviving act bears the king's signature – may indeed have already borne it before presentation to parliament – and the king led the prosecution, to which Clarence was allowed no defence. Crowland, who appears to have been present, thought the trial and the verdict unjust. So too our other sources: 'were hee fautye were hee faultlesse'; whether 'the charge was fabricated or a real plot revealed'. Edward failed to convince contemporaries of his brother's guilt. Edward's destruction of his brother – fratricide – and a royal prince was deeply shocking.


All our principal sources look beyond the trial itself for the root causes – in the enmity of the queen, the plotting of Clarence's enemies, and in misunderstanding of an alleged prophecy that Edward would be succeeded by someone whose name began with G – not George, but Gloucester. If so, Edward was not the prime mover but the instrument of others. Yet the trial was carefully prepared and planning began early. The parliament of 1478 was packed – a higher proportion of the Commons were servants of the crown or of key courtiers. The session was interlaced with the marriage celebration of the king's second son, which enabled an appearance of royal unity to be presented. No divisions were permitted, as key kinsmen – his brothers-in-law Buckingham and Suffolk – were involved and rewarded. None however benefited more than Clarence's brother Richard Duke of Gloucester.

He received nine specific benefits at Clarence's expense. Whilst these are significant, it has been argued that grants after Clarence's death need not imply either co-operation in or foreknowledge of Clarence's destruction. Although the patents are dated to February, the warrants are dated somewhat earlier and several can be dated before the parliament even met. Gloucester's son Edward took Clarence's earldom of Salisbury as early as July 1477. Responsibility for Clarence's fate, justified or not, rests with King Edward, whether manipulated or not.

Clarence was executed in the Tower on February 1478. Absurd though it is, the story that he was drowned in malmsey wine is strictly contemporary and no alternative was offered. Any wider significance from such a curious end cannot be proven. The duke was buried beside his wife at Tewkesbury Abbey.

Further Reading

  • The Arrivall of Edward IV, ed. J. Bruce, Camden Society I (1838)
  • Collection of Ordinances and Regulations of the Royal Household, Society of Antiquaries (1790)
  • The Crowland Chronicle Continuations 1459-86, ed. N. Pronay and J. Cox (Gloucester, 1986)
  • A. Goodman, The Wars of the Roses. The Soldier's Experience (Gloucester, 2005)
  • M.A. Hicks, False, Fleeting, Perjur'd Clarence: George Duke of Clarence 1449-78 (Gloucester, 1980)
  • Michael Hicks, Richard III (Stroud, 2000)
  • Michael Hicks, Edward V: The Prince in the Tower (Stroud, 2003)
  • Michael Hicks, Edward IV (London, 2004)
  • Michael Hicks, Anne Neville: Queen to Richard III (Stroud, 2006)
  • D. Mancini, The Usurpation of Richard III, ed. C.A.J. Armstrong (Oxford, 1969)
  • T. More, History of King Richard III, ed. R. Sylvester (New Haven, Conn., 1963)
  • William Shakespeare, History of King Richard III, ed. A Hammond (1981)
  • The Rous Roll, ed. W.H. Courthope (1859)
  • Rolls of Parliament available on CD as The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed., C. Given-Wilson et al (2005)

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His Wife - Lady Anne Neville

by Marie Barnfield

Early Years

Anne was the younger of the two daughters of Richard Neville and Anne Beauchamp, earl and countess of Warwick. She was born at Warwick Castle on 11 June 1456 and christened in the collegiate church of St Mary in the town. By the time of her birth her father was already a well known supporter of his uncle-by-marriage the Duke of York, and before she was five years old he had helped York’s eldest son, Edward, take the throne from King Henry VI

Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle
Where Anne and her elder sister Isabel grew up is not recorded, but Warwick Castle and Middleham Castle in North Yorkshire may have been their main residences. Anne’s first known public appearance was at the enthronement feast of her uncle George Neville as archbishop of York in 1465. Also present was the younger of Edward IV’s two brothers, Richard Duke of Gloucester (b.1452), who had recently joined the Earl’s household alongside Francis Lord Lovell (born 1456) and other noble youths. The previous year a rift had opened up between Anne’s father and the King when Edward had responded to Warwick’s negotiations for a French bride by announcing his secret marriage to an English widow, Elizabeth Woodville. The new queen’s possession of a number of unmarried sisters deprived Warwick of most of the suitable matches for his own daughters and it seems plausible that the King had offered Gloucester and Lovell as bridegrooms for Isabel and Anne.

Warwick had, however, by this time conceived an ambition to marry both of his daughters to both of the King’s brothers, which would mean that George Duke of Clarence, the elder prince, would marry Isabel, and Gloucester would marry Anne. It is not true (as has recently been claimed) that Isabel and Anne could not legally marry two brothers. The so-called ‘in-law’ impediment of affinity merely prevented an individual from marrying the relative of a previous partner. The only obstacle to Warwick’s scheme was the King, who would not allow Clarence to wed Isabel as George’s marriage was an important tool in his foreign diplomacy. The Neville girls were a good financial catch, though, as they were coheiresses to their paternal grandmother's earldom of Salisbury and to all their mother’s vast estates, consisting of the earldom of Warwick and the Despenser lands in the south-west (the Neville lands themselves, centred on Middleham, would pass to Warwick’s nearest male heir). Despite the King’s opposition, Warwick won Clarence’s agreement to the marriage and sent agents over to Rome to secure the necessary dispensations.

Eventually, relations between Warwick and the King broke down and Richard was forced to make a choice of allegiance. By the end of 1468 he had left Warwick’s household for good and taken personal charge of his own estates. As Lord Lovell had already been married off, Anne’s marriage prospects must now have looked rather bleak.

A Contentious Marriage

Clarence nonetheless persisted in his intrigue with Warwick and, on 12 July 1469, secretly wed Isabel Neville at Calais. This marriage was the foundation stone of their rebellion, which destroyed the king’s favourites, consigned King Edward to custody – possibly with a view to replacing him with Clarence – and put the Nevilles back in control. The coup failed to endure, however. After a brief reconciliation with King Edward and a further unsuccessful rebellion, in April 1470 Anne found herself fleeing with her parents, sister and brother-in-law Clarence into exile in France; Isabel’s first baby was born dead aboard ship.


This was the context for Anne’s first marriage, to Edward of Lancaster Edward, Prince of Wales after the Rous Roll
Edward, Prince of Wales after the Rous Roll.
© Geoffrey Wheeler
the son and heir of the dethroned Henry VI and his queen, Margaret of Anjou. In July Warwick left his family at the port of Honfleur and travelled south to cement the new alliance. When he returned in early August it was in company with Queen Margaret and her son. It had been agreed that Warwick would return to England with French military support and restore Henry VI to the throne, and Anne would marry Edward of Lancaster. Both Warwick and King Louis were anxious to see the couple wed before Warwick set sail, but Queen Margaret was by no means happy about the match, and was trying hard to delay it. Fortunately for her, there was a practical impediment as Anne and Edward were third cousins and so a dispensation would be needed in order for their union to be lawful. Louis had sent out petitions to various prelates in France who might possess the authority to grant this dispensation, and was pressing Queen Margaret to let the wedding proceed in anticipation of its arrival so that Warwick could set sail. Margaret, however, was obdurate. The dispensation was delayed as it needed the direct approval of the Vatican. Warwick had to return to England without seeing his daughter wed.


Anne and her mother now followed Queen Margaret to the French court at Tours. The papal dispensation, issued on 17 August, probably reached them before the end of September, and by 19 October they had also learned of Warwick’s victory: King Henry VI was back on the throne and Edward IV had fled into exile in the Low Countries. Yet throughout November Queen Margaret contrived to delay the marriage, safe in the knowledge that between the beginning of December and 13 January weddings could not be openly celebrated, and indeed were not clearly allowable at all. Louis, however, was not to be so easily bested and sent to one of his bishops for a special dispensation; having finally run out of options, Queen Margaret capitulated and the couple were quietly married in December at Amboise; Prince Edward was seventeen, and Anne fourteen.

Princess of Wales

Although Anne was now Queen-of-England-in-waiting, in other respects it was an inauspicious start to her married life. After Christmas the young Prince and Princess of Wales travelled with the Queen to the Normandy coast to take ship for England. Anne’s mother trailed in their wake, having been forced to beg an escort from King Louis. The weather that winter was so stormy that it was March before they finally set sail. The Countess, travelling in a separate ship, embarked safely at Portsmouth, but the royal flotilla did not make land until 14 April, and then only at the small port of Weymouth many miles to the west. They arrived just in time to witness the downfall of the new régime. King Edward had returned and taken London, Clarence had reverted to his Yorkist allegiance, and that very day Warwick had perished in defeat at Barnet. Anne’s mother was in Southampton when she heard the news, and immediately took sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey. Anne had no option but to share in the forced march to Tewkesbury, where King Edward destroyed the Lancastrian army and Prince Edward was found amongst the slain. Anne was placed in the custody of her sister the Duchess Isabel and her brother-in-law Clarence.

A Second Contentious Marriage

Anne’s father and husband had both died traitors and her mother was soon to find her sanctuary lodgings surrounded by an armed guard. The estates of both her parents were seized; the Neville lands in the North were granted to the king’s youngest brother Gloucester, and the lands to which Isabel and Anne had been joint heirs were granted to Clarence as a reward for his return to the Yorkist fold. Anne was left with nothing, and yet early in 1472 Richard Duke of Gloucester sought her hand. Anne and King Edward were both agreeable, but not so Clarence. Under pressure from the King, he grudgingly agreed to the marriage but only on condition that Anne got no share of her parents’ estates. But in March he finally conceded certain properties, and Richard and Anne sent off to Rome for a final dispensation to cover the affinity that had arisen between them as the result of Anne’s marriage to Edward of Lancaster.

The dispensation, issued on 22 April, is unlikely to have reached England much before June, by which time Richard was again in the North. He returned to London in the autumn only to find Anne gone. Eventually her discovered her (allegedly concealed by Clarence as a kitchenmaid), and lodged her in St. Martin’s Sanctuary. Their marriage probably took place in late January or early February 1473. Anne was now sixteen-and-a-half and Richard just turned twenty.The signatures of Anne Warwick and Richard Gloucester
The signatures of Anne Warwick and Richard Gloucester

One of the first tasks Richard undertook after his marriage was to obtain the Countess of Warwick’s release from Beaulieu Sanctuary into his own household at Middleham. At the time she rode north rumours were emanating from the King’s household that Edward also meant to restore all her property so that she could give it to the Gloucesters. These tales were false but they may have unnerved Clarence. Whatever the reason, when Richard came back down to the capital that autumn for parliament he found Clarence spoiling for a fight, and arming men to ‘deal with the Duke of Gloucester’. The King commanded the brothers to submit their dispute to the royal council, but it took forfeiture of Clarence’s estates that Christmas to force him to obey.

Clarence appears to have been claiming that Richard’s marriage to Anne was null and void on grounds of force. The landed classes were prone to view the enticement of an heiress into marriage against the wishes of her guardians as rape for the purposes of theft. This would almost certainly have been the basis of Clarence’s objection, but in fact only the girl’s own consent was necessary. Richard had placed Anne in sanctuary, and there she could easily have stayed had she not wished to marry him.

During the arbitration process ‘so many keen arguments were put forward on either side with the greatest acuteness in the presence of the king, sitting in judgement in the council-chamber, that all who stood around, even those learned in the law, marvelled at the profusion of the arguments which the princes produced for their own cases.The signatures of Anne Warwick and Richard Gloucester
Queen Anne Neville and Richard III from the c. 1483
English version of the Rous Roll (British Library Add MS 48976).
© The British Library.
To explore the Rous Roll further:
The final judgement was stark in its simplicity. Anne’s mother was to be barred from claiming any property, and her inheritance divided between her daughters and their husbands as though she were dead. Should Richard and Anne’s marriage be declared void, Richard was to retain his interest in Anne’s share of the inheritance so long as he continued trying to effect a valid marriage with her. Parliament reconvened on 9 May ‘at which ninth day, by the advice and assent of the lords spiritual and temporal and the commons … being in that parliament, … for diverse considerations moving the same lord king,’ the terms of the accord were ‘enacted, ordained and established …’ It is interesting to note that Richard was at Pontefract as late as 7 May so cannot have been present in parliament on the day the Act was passed. Just after the start of the summer recess George and Isabel, on the one party, and Anne, on the other, drew up an indenture which bore witness to all the terms of the Act except those relating to the possibility of Richard and Anne being ‘divorced’. George, it seems, had finally come to terms with Anne’s marriage.

Duchess of Gloucester

Duchess of Gloucester
Richard, Duke of Gloucester by Graham Turner.
Reproduced by kind permissionof the artist.
The public documents that survive give no indication of the quality of Anne and Richard’s personal relationship (expressions of conjugal affection are conventional in such documents), but from a practical viewpoint the union had been highly beneficial to them both. Richard never overlooked the fact that these newly acquired lands constituted Anne’s inheritance, and every deed relating to them was drawn up in joint names. Even after they had become King and Queen Richard was careful to respect Anne’s interests, for instance carefully excluding from a grant to Lady Hastings the manor of Loughborough, which ‘to us and our dearest wife in her right belongeth’.

Edward, Richard and Anne’s only child (or at least the only child to survive infancy and enter the public record), was conceived on Richard’s return from France and born at Middleham during the summer of 1476. Early in her second trimester Anne may have managed a pilgrimage to Durham, since on 14 February she was admitted to join her husband as a member of the Fraternity of St. Cuthbert. The next autumn Anne appears to have accompanied Richard to London for the Great Council as whilst in the city he purchased for ‘his most dearly beloved consort’ ‘certain furs’, ‘silk cloth and other things’. This was the autumn that Anne’s sister Isabel gave birth to her last child, a boy named Richard. Isabel and her baby did not survive, and on 3 January 1477 Isabel’s body was taken from Warwick for burial with her Despenser ancestors in Tewkesbury Abbey; unfortunately, we do not know whether Anne and Richard attended the funeral.

Over the following few months we catch two further glimpses of Anne. She wrote to the Prior of Durham putting forward one of the ducal chaplains for a vacant vicarage, a request which, after a little confusion, was finally granted on 11 April. Shortly afterwards, she and Richard were admitted together to the Corpus Christi Guild of York.

After Clarence’s execution in February 1478, Richard came much more rarely to court and Anne also appears much less in the surviving records. She probably accompanied Richard in 1479 when he toured the Despenser lordship of Glamorgan with Lord and Lady Howard, staying at Swansea and Camarthen castles, and almost certainly visiting Cardiff, whose charters of liberties Richard and Anne had jointly confirmed two years earlier. It may have been on this journey that the couple endowed Great Malvern Priory with its great west window depicting the Last Judgment, in which both of their arms appear.

Queen of England

After Edward IV’s death on 9 April 1483, Richard rode south to take up his position as Protector to the young Edward V. Anne followed a month later, shortly before the beginning of the political crisis that ended with Richard taking the throne; it was during this period that Clarence and Isabel’s son, Edward Earl of Warwick, was delivered into Anne’s care.

Richard and Anne were crowned together on 6 July. On the eve of the ceremony they travelled to Westminster from the Tower, Anne riding in a litter and wearing a kirtle and mantle of white cloth-of-gold. For the coronation itself, she wore the royal purple. The coronation day began with a procession into the Abbey, where the couple were crowned and anointed and mass was sung, and ended with a magnificent banquet at which Anne was served from dishes of silver-gilt.

As Queen, Anne’s lifestyle would have become much more lavish, and we glimpse Richard purchasing silks and French wines for them both. After the coronation, they set out on their first royal progress. Whilst Richard continued westwards towards Tewkesbury, Anne divided her time between Windsor and her birthplace of Warwick. Whilst in Windsor, she received an ambassador Queen Isabella of Spain, whom she introduced to Richard when he reached Warwick. At Pontefract they were joined by their seven-year-old son Edward. In York they received such a rapturous reception that Richard decided to reward the city by having it host his son’s investiture as Prince of Wales, a very grand occasion in which Richard and Anne went crowned and the Spanish ambassador was knighted.

The following March, Richard and Anne rode together to Queens’ College, Cambridge, where ‘the most serene Queen Anne … augmented and endowed the college with great rents’. In thanks, the university authorities decreed that a mass should be celebrated annually ‘for the happy state of the same most renowned prince and his dearest consort Anne’. The couple then settled at Nottingham, where during April they received the disastrous and unexpected news of their son’s death at Middleham. ‘You might have seen the father and mother … almost out of their minds for a long time when faced with the sudden grief’.

Prince Edward’s death was not only a personal tragedy but also a dynastic blow and if Anne was to have another child she clearly needed to spend as much time with her husband as possible. Certainly, it is often supposed that, whilst Richard was based at Scarborough that summer to direct naval operations against the Scots, Anne was also there, residing in the square tower named in 1538 by John Leland as ‘The Queens Towre or Lodging’. Anne was also with her husband at Christmas, when, as the Crowland Chronicler claims, ‘far too much attention was given to dancing and gaiety’ and to frequent changes of matching clothes by Queen Anne and Edward IV’s eldest daughter, the Lady Elizabeth. As the court was celebrating Twelfth Night, news arrived that Henry Tudor had determined to attempt an invasion that coming summer.

Immediately, Richard found himself assaulted by hostile rumours ‘by evil disposed persons contrived and sown’. After the favour shown to the Lady Elizabeth at Christmas, Crowland continues, a tale spread that the king was considering divorcing Anne to marry her. It very soon became clear, however, that Anne was seriously ill, and so rather predictably the rumours now turned towards poison. The only clues we have as to the actual nature of Anne’s illness are its duration – two months – and the fact that her doctors advised Richard to avoid her bed. As for marriage to his niece, it is now known that a marriage deal involving Elizabeth was indeed being considered for Richard’s widowhood, but it was a double marriage between Richard and a Portuguese princess, and Elizabeth and a Portuguese prince.

Anne died on 16 March 1485, on the same day that England experienced a great eclipse of the sun. She was just three months short of her twenty-ninth birthday. She was buried in Westminster Abbey ‘with honours no less than befitted the burial of a queen’. She had been in life, according to the family hagiographer John Rows, ‘seemly, amiable and beauteous, and in conditions full commendable and right virtuous and, according to the interpretation of her name, Anne, full gracious.’ The Dean and Chapter of Durham, in admitting her into their confraternity, had declared themselves motivated by her deep devotion to St. Cuthbert and her benevolent support of their monastery. The Doge of Venice, writing a letter of condolence to Richard, encouraged to him take comfort in the knowledge that she had ‘led so religious and catholic a life, and was so adorned with goodness, prudence, and excellent morality, as to leave a name immortal.’

The final postscript to Anne’s story occurred on 30 March, when Richard called the Mayor and citizens of London together to address the rumour that he had had Anne poisoned in order to marry Elizabeth. Speaking ‘in a loud and distinct voice’, he ‘showed his grief and displeasure aforesaid and said it never came into his thought or mind to marry in such manner wise, nor willing nor glad of the death of his queen but as sorry and in heart as heavy as man might be …’

Main Sources/ Further Reading

  • The Last Medieval Queens by J. L. Laynesmith, Oxford, 2004
  • Richard III by David Baldwin, Stroud, 2012
  • The Wars of the Roses by J. R. Lander
  • By Marie Barnfield & Annette Carson, Ricardian Bulletin:
    • Edward of Middleham’s Birth’, Sept. 2016
    • The Marriage of Lady Anne Neville and Richard Duke of Gloucester’, Dec. 2016
    • The Death of Edward of Middleham, Price of Wales’, Sept. 2017
    • The Marriage of Lady Anne Neville and Edward of Lancaster’, Dec. 2017
  • From The Ricardian:
    • Some expenses of Richard Duke of Gloucester, 1475-7’ by Rosemary Horrox & Anne Sutton, Vol. 6, No. 83, Dec.1983
    • The Portuguese connection and the significance of the holy princess’ by Barrie Williams, Vol. 6, No 80, March 1983, & No 82, Sept. 1983
    • Diriment Impediments, Dispensations and Divorce’ by Marie Barnfield, Vol. 17, 2007
  • British Library Harleian Manuscript 433 edited by R. Horrox and P. W. Hammond, Richard III Society, 4 Vols, 1979-1983
  • Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Vol. 1, HMSO, 1864
  • Historiae Dunelmensis Scriptores Tres, Seldon Soc 9, 1839, No. 272, pp. ccclvii-ccclviii
  • The Crowland Chronicle Continuations 1459-1486 edited by N. Pronay & J. Cox, London, 1986
  • The Itinerary of John Leland the Antiquary, ed. Thomas Hearne, Vol. 1, 1745
  • The Rows Roll edited by W.H. Courthope, London, 1859
  • York City Chamberlains’ Account Rolls, Surtees Soc. Vol. 192, 1980

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His Son - Edward, Prince of Wales

by Peter Hammond

Prince Edward based on the Rous Roll.
Prince Edward based on the Rous Roll.
© Geoffrey Wheeler
Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales was the only known legitimate child of Richard III and Anne Neville. He was born in Middleham probably some time between early 1473 (after his parents received a partial dispensation for their marriage in April 1472) and February 1478 when he was created Earl of Salisbury. Nursery Tower at Middleham Castle where Prince Edward was born
Nursery Tower at Middleham Castle
where Prince Edward was born.
© Geoffrey Wheeler
It seems likely that he was in fact born c.1474-1476 since he is recorded as aged seven and a little more in 1483. Little is known of his life before his father's accession to the throne in the summer of 1483. He did not attend his father's coronation on 6 July but was made nominal Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on 19 July and created Prince of Wales on 24 August in a splendid ceremony in York. He was formally declared heir apparent to the throne in February 1484. Nothing more is known of his life and by about the beginning of April 1484 he was dead. We do not know where he was buried. We do know that it was not in Sheriff Hutton as has often been said.



  • Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales by P W Hammond, 2nd edtion 1973
  • Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales by A J Pollard, New DNB
  • Richard and Anne's Dispensation, Marie Barnfield, Ricardian Bulletin, Spring 2006, pp.30-32

His Illegitimate Children

by Peter Hammond

The image of Richard III presented by some historians is that of moral earnestness and a puritanical outlook,[1] and that of his brother Edward of moral laxity. It is true to say though that while Richard publicly acknowledged two bastards in his lifetime (John of Gloucester and Katherine Plantagenet), his brother acknowledged none. The difference may be that Richard's illegitimate children were born before his marriage, while some of Edward's were born afterwards; the children of a bachelor were not considered as reprehensible as were the bastards of a married man. There is some evidence that Richard had a third illegitimate child, Richard of Eastwell, not publicly acknowledged in his lifetime. Very little is known about any of these children, particularly the third, and this article attempts to summarise this scanty information.

First a few general remarks. It is necessary to say that, historical novelists notwithstanding, nothing is known for certain of the date of birth of any of the children, nor about their mothers. Probably they all had different mothers, but it is possible that they may have had the same mother, or at least that John of Gloucester and Katherine Plantagenet, the two openly acknowledged ones, did, but this is pure surmise. Nothing at all is known about the early lives of John and Katherine, although it is possible that they were two of 'the children' referred to in the Regulations for the King's Household in the North in July 1484.[3]

John of Gloucester

The Medieval City of Calais.
The Medieval City of Calais
The first reference to John is in September 1483, when, according to Buck, '[the king] made Richard of Gloucester, his base son [Captain of] Calais'. He was possibly in fact knighted on this occasion.[4] The reference to Richard must be a mistake for John of Gloucester because of a later grant to 'our dear bastard son, John of Gloucester' of the offices of Captain of Calais, and of the fortresses of Rysbank, Guisnes, Hammes, and Lieutenant of the Marches of Picardy for his life.[5] This patent is dated 11 March 1485, and gives John all necessary powers, with the exception of that of appointing the officers. This was reserved until John became twenty-one, from which it may be gathered that he had not yet reached that age, although how much younger he was we do not know. It may be surmised that he was not too near it or the reservation would not have been worth making. The patent describes John as having 'liveliness of mind, activity of body, and inclination to all good customs (which) promise us, by the grace of God, great hope of his good service for the future'. These remarks may be pure convention (or reflect parental pride) rather than objective fact, for in the charter creating Edward of Middleham Prince of Wales very similar expressions are used.[6] The initial notice of the appointment to the Captaincy of Calais provides a possible clue to the birthplace of John, since he is there referred to as John of Pomfret.[7]

It seems probable that John was acting as Captain of Calais before the date of his patent of appointment, since in the Canterbury City Archives there occur references to payments in November 1484 for an allowance of wine and leavened bread 'for the Lord Bastard riding to Calais', and for a pike and wine for 'Master Brakynbury Constable of the Tower of London' returned from Calais at that time 'from the Lord Bastard'.[8] The linking of 'Lord Bastard' with Calais leaves little doubt that John of Gloucester is meant, but has interesting implications. A warrant to deliver clothing to 'the Lord Bastard' dated 9 March 1485, two days before the grant of the Captaincy of Calais, has been put forward as referring to Edward V, who at that date would be officially referred to as such.[9] In view of the Canterbury payment though it seems more likely to be a reference to John of Gloucester, and to cast further doubt on part of the evidence used to prove the survival into 1485 of the eldest son of Edward IV.

Tower of London where Johnwas probably held prisoner.
Tower of London
where John was probably held prisoner.
© Geoffrey Wheeler
The next reference shows that John survived the death of his father, and was provided for to some extent by Henry VII. It is a grant to 'John de Gloucester, bastard, of an annual rent of 20 li. during the King's pleasure, issuing out of the revenues of the lordship or manor of Kyngestonlacy, parcel of the duchy of Lancaster, in co. Dorset'.[10] This grant is not ungenerous, and perhaps shows that at that time Henry felt he had nothing to fear from an undoubted bastard of his late rival. This state of affairs does not seem to have lasted very long, however, since the last reference apparently to John, again from Buck, states that 'about the time these unhappie gentlemen suffered (i.e. at the time of the deaths of Perkin Warbeck and the Earl of Warwick) there was abase sone of King Richard III made away, and secretly, having been kept long before in prison' .The reason for the execution was apparently the wish of some unspecified Irishmen to make him their ruler. Although Buck does not name the person involved, there is no reason to doubt that John is meant, as he is the only openly acknowledged male bastard of Richard known. John also appears to be referred to in the Confession of Perkin Warbeck as 'King Richard's bastard son', then (i.e. 1491) in the hands of Henry VII.[11]

It has been suggested[12] that we have a later reference than this to John of Gloucester in a Patent Roll entry of 1505. The reference is to one 'John Gloucestre', as merchant of the Staple of Calais, to whom Henry VII was granting a pardon. It is unlikely that this refers to Richard's son, for the name was not uncommon. For example, a man of this name, a citizen and grocer, was appointed Bailiff of Southwark by the City of London in 1460, and he or someone else of this name served on a number of royal commissions, one as late as 1477. A person of this name is described as dead in May 1484.[13] It therefore seems more likely that a son or relative of the 1460 Bailiff of Southwark is the man referred to in 1505, and not Richard's son.

Katherine Plantagenet

Katherine, the only daughter, albeit illegitimate, of Richard III, first comes to notice in 1484, when William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon (formerly Earl of Pembroke) covenanted 'to take to wife Dame Katherine Plantagenet, daughter to the King, before Michaelmas of that year'.[14] Nothing is known of Dame Katherine before this, no mention is made anywhere of her mother, nor when she was born. That she married in 1484 is no guide to her age: child marriages were not uncommon in the fifteenth century, (Anne Mowbray was five when she was married to Richard, Duke of York), but she could hardly have been older than about eighteen since Richard himself was only born in 1452, and it is perhaps unlikely that she would have been born after Richard's marriage in about 1474. She was thus probably between ten and eighteen years of age.

The marriage covenant mentioned was dated 29 February. In it, in addition to agreeing to marry Katherine before 29 September 1484 (Michaelmas), the Earl agreed to make her a jointure in lands of £200 per annum. The King, who agreed to bear the whole cost of the marriage, undertook to settle lands and lordships to a value of 1000 marks per annum on them and the heirs male of their two bodies. The settlement of the King was subject to certain interesting qualifications. The couple were to have manors, lordships, lands and tenements in the possession of the King on the day of the marriage, to the value of 600 marks, and the same to the value of 400 marks in reversion after the death of Lord Stanley. Meanwhile, during the life of Lord Stanley, they were to have an annuity of 400 marks payable from the revenues of the lordships of Newport, Brecknock and Hay. The manors etc. in the possession of Lord Stanley were obviously those of his wife, granted to him for his life because of her support of Buckingham's uprising. The revenues of the annuity had lately belonged to the duke of Buckingham himself. Three days after the marriage agreement had been entered into, on 3 March, the King fulfilled the second part of his engagement, granting the annuity he had promised. They were married between then and May 1484, since a grant of the proceeds of various manors in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset was then made to 'William Erle of Huntingdon and Kateryn his wif'.[15] On 8 March 1485 a further grant was made to the Earl and Katherine his wife of an annuity of £152 10.10 from the issues of the King's possessions in the counties of Carmarthen and Cardigan, and from those of the King's lordship of Haverfordwest.[16]

Nothing further is known about Katherine. She may have had children, but if so they did not survive, since the Earl's heir was Elizabeth, his daughter by his first wife, Mary Woodville. Nor is it known when she died, but it seems very likely that she did not survive the Earl (although he certainly did not marry again), and she may have been dead by 25 November 1487, the date of the coronation of Elizabeth of York. Among the lists of nobility present at that ceremony is a list of earls (including the Earl of Huntingdon) all described as 'widowers'.[17] If this is correct (and one of the other earls in the list was probably not a widower) then Katherine was probably dead by this date, under the age of twenty. Another clue to the date of her death may be given by the fact that on 17 May 1488 Henry VII confirmed Herbert's charter as earl of Huntingdon.[18] This may have reflected a desire to confirm his position after the death of his wife, or of course merely a desire to consolidate his position in the Tudor world.

Richard Plantagenet

Page from Desiderata Curiosa, a source for the story of Richard of Eastwell.
Page from Desiderata Curiosa,
a source for the story of Richard of Eastwell
Richard Plantagenet—or Richard of Eastwell—is a mysterious figure who may, or more probably may not, have been a son of Richard III. The facts in this case are even more scanty than for John and Katherine and consist of an entry in the parish register of Eastwell, a hamlet three miles north of Ashford in Kent. The entry reads 'Rychard Plantagenet was buryed the xxij daye of Desember, Anno ut supra', and appears under the year 1550. This entry is the foundation of all the stories about Richard Plantagenet. It appears to be genuine. The register is in fact a copy made in 1598 by the then vicar, Josias Nicholls, in accordance with an order made in that year that all existing paper registers be copied into vellum books. The original paper register no longer exists. However, comparing the existing vellum copy with the bishop's transcripts of the period 1562 (when they begin) to 1598 shows good agreement. The entry for 1550 in the register as we have it is therefore almost certainly an accurate copy of that made at the time. For the Richard Plantagenet entry to be disregarded the incumbent in 1550 (Richard Styles), or Josias Nicholls must have deliberately forged it. We have no reason to suppose that either was capable of such an apparently pointless act. It has been suggested[19] that the entry is a pedantic translation of the common name 'Broom', but the extant register is not in Latin, nor are the existing bishop's transcripts, and we have no reason to suppose the original 1550 register was either. Of course no one knows if the deceased believed himself to be a Plantagenet, or whether Sir Thomas Moyle, the owner of Eastwell, so believed, or both. Sir Thomas must almost certainly have known of the entry in the register when it was made.

It has been said that the register entry has a mark against it which only appears against the names of those of noble blood. This story was started in 1767 by Philip Parsons, the then Vicar of Eastwell.[20] It is true that there is a mark of sorts against the name Richard Plantagenet, and that there are other (different) marks against other names (not all noble), but the explanation of these seems to be that they were made by a member of the Finch family, later owners of Eastwell, to mark off entries interesting to himself, which he then copied out.[21]

One other piece of evidence is sometimes cited for the existence of Richard Plantagenet, namely his 'tomb'. This is still in Eastwell Church, which is now a ruin, being damaged in the war. All of the other tombs were removed to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1968 for protection. In form it is an altar tomb, with indents for brasses, and was formerly on the north side of the chancel. It is almost certainly the tomb of Sir Walter Moyle, who died in 1480; the form of the brass indents shows that it originally housed pt least two bodies, one male and one female, the latter apparently wearing a head-dress of circa 1480-1490. There are also indents for two groups, one for two sons and one for three daughters, below the two main figures.[22] The tomb could certainly not have belonged to Richard Plantagenet.

The other details of the story as often told apparently stem from a letter by a Dr Brett published in 1735.[23] This states, with much circumstantial detail, that Richard was acknowledged by his father Richard III on the eve of Bosworth, but only privately, and that he lived in obscurity after the battle as a stonemason at Eastwell. Sir Thomas Moyle, the owner of Eastwell Place, is said to have discovered his identity and given him a cottage to live in, where he remained until his death at about the age of eighty-one. It seems very likely that Dr Brett believed the story he related in his letter to be true, and that this story reflects a genuine tradition in the Finch family, owners of Eastwell Place in 1733. However there is apparently no reference in print to Richard Plantagenet between the date of the burial entry (1550) and 1773, which may be regarded as suspicious, although Dr Samuel Pegge confirmed that the tradition existed in the Eastwell area in the middle of the eighteenth century while he was vicar of neighbouring Godmersham.[24] It is true to say though, that if there is no evidence that the full legend is true, there is also none that it is untrue.[25]

Notes and References

This is an amended form of the article in The Ricardian, Vol. V, No.66, (September 1979), pp. 92-6 which takes account of the short note in Vol. V, No.72, (March 1981), p. 319. The amended article was then published in Richard III: Crown and People, edited by James Petre.

  1. See for example Kendall, pp. 320, 322, 323.
  2. There is a very slight possibility that we have a clue to the name of Richard's mistress (or one of them), in a grant by Richard in 1477 to Katherine Haute of 100 shillings per annum for life (DL29/637/10360A). Katherine was the wife of James Haute (son of William Haute and Joan Woodville, and so cousin to Elizabeth Woodville). Little is known about her; there is no apparent reason for Richard to give her an annuity, and her Christian name is of course that of Richard's illegitimate daughter, an uncommon one in the Yorkist Neville families. All of this may of course be far from the truth, although it is suggestive. Thanks are due to Dr Rosemary Horrox for this reference, and for her comments.
  3. There is a very slight possibility that we have a clue to the name of Richard's mistress (or one of BL Hari MS 433, Vol. 3, p. 114.
  4. Sir George Buck, The History of King Richard the Third, (1619), edited A.N. Kincaid, (Gloucester 1979), pp. 51, 255. Fabyan is the source of the (erroneous) information that Richard made this son Captain of Calais at this time. The reference to a bastard of Richard being knighted in 1483 appears in the 1646 edition of Buck's work (p. 28), presumably added by the editor, Buck's nephew, George Buck, contrary to his normal practice of not adding any factual material, (Kincaid, Buck, p. lxvii). We have no clue as to the source of his information.
  5. Thomas Rymer, Foedera, (London 1704-13), Vol. 12, pp. 265-6.
  6. BL Hart MS 433, Vol. 1, pp. 81-2.
  7. BL Hart MS 433, Vol. 1, p. 269.
  8. Chamberlains' Accounts of the City of Canterbury, Michaelmas 1484 to Michaelmas 1485, f. 26. I am indebted to Dr Anne Sutton for a transcript of the Latin entry from the Canterbury Archives.
  9. BL Hart MS 433, Vol. 2, p. 211. See also Caroline Halsted, Richard Ill as Duke of Gloucester and King of England, (London 1844), Vol. 2, p. 487 and C.R. Markham, Richard Ill, (London 1906), p. 237.
  10. W. Campbell (ed.), Materials for the History of the Reign of Henry VII, Rolls Series, Vol. 1, i (London 1873), p. 328.
  11. George Buck, op. cit., pp. 170, 298.
  12. By A.N. Kincaid, George Buck, op. cit., p. 298. See CPR 1494-1509, p. 448.
  13. D.J. Johnson, Southwark and the City of London, (London 1969), pp. 45, 104 note 3; CPR 1476-85, p. 24; CPR 1476-1485, no.1246, p. 366.
  14. D.H. Thomas, The Herberts of Raglan, unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Wales, (1967), pp. 283,284 and also pp. 215-16 quoting the Herbertorum Prosapia, a seventeenth-century history of the Herbert family. A version of the Covenant was printed by Halsted, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 569.
  15. CPR 1476-85, p. 431; BL Harl MS 433, Vol. 2, p. 137. The marriage is usually stated to have taken place between March and September 1484, see CP, Vol. 10, p. 402.
  16. CPR 1476-85, p. 538.
  17. John Leland, De Rebus Britannicis Collectanea, Vol. 4, (London 1770), pp. 216-23. I am indebted to Rhoda Edwards for drawing my attention to this fact.
  18. CPR 1485-94, p. 237. For a discussion of the position of William Herbert after 1485, see Helen Maurer, 'The Later Careers of William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon, and his Brother, Sir Walter Herbert', Richard Ill: Crown and People, edited by James Petre, 1985, pp.95-7. Richard's children
  19. R.H.D'Elboux, 'Some Kentish Indents', Archaeologia Cantiana, Vol. 59, (1946), pp. 98-9.
  20. Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 37, (1767), p. 408.
  21. R.H. Husk, Notes and Queries, 6th Series, Vol. 9, (1884), p. 12
  22. D'Elboux, op. cit., pp. 96-7.
  23. Printed by Francis Peck in his Desiderata Curiosa, Vol. 2, (London 1735), pp. 24-51. The letter, dated 1733, relates a conversation between Dr Brett and the 5th Earl of Winchelsea.
  24. Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 37, (1767), p. 408. Pegge wrote under the name 'T. Row', a known pseudonym of his.
  25. For later developments in the history of Richard Plantagenet see David Baldwin, The Lost Prince: The survival of Richard of York, 2007

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