Towton Remembered

Forgive my posting this a day late, but yesterday saw the anniversary of the Battle of Towton. On 29th March (Palm Sunday), 1461. Following a blood bath composed of the deaths of thousands, the Yorkists won a decisive victory over the Lancastrians, led by Queen Margaret (who naturally was not actually at the battle itself). The Queen, King and their young son, Edward, fled to Scotland.

For more information on the Battle of Towton, visit UK Battlefields Resource Centre

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Fangs At Ten Paces.

Ever wondered what would have happened if Henry VII had made a pact with druids to turn himself into a Vampire so he could defeat Richard III through fang power? Me neither, but you can read all about it in this, er, interesting looking hist fic novel about him.

But in all seriousness, I was looking around for some fictional portrayals of Henry VII in literature, and there really doesn’t seem to be much out there. Although, I have heard good things about Roberta Gellis’ “The Dragon and the Rose”.  The cover, however, was enough to put me right off. A bit “Mills and Boon” looking.

Anyway, I was wondering if anyone has seen any more fictional protrayals of King Henry VII? I’d be interested in seeing how is commonly portrayed by novellists. Whether he tends to be demonised, or whether there are some who look past the immediate facts and see something more in him. I ask for fictional portrayals as they tend to be able to go to the places that biographers cannot. Of course, this should always be treated as fiction, but all the same, I think it can be an enlightening read.

Margaret Beaufort.

Seeing as 8th March marks International Women’s Day, there is only one woman that I can commemorate on this blog, and that has to be Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. She was the matriarch of the Tudor dynasty; true. But, in her own right was a woman well worthy of commemoration. Although, this post has been very hastily thrown together, and is by no means a comprehensive look at Lady Margaret’s life and times. It is, however, a very brief introduction to a very formidable woman.

Lady Margaret was the daughter of John Beaufort, first duke of Somerset and his wife, Lady Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe. She was born on 31st May, 1441-43, with there being some dispute about the precise year. A descendant of John of Gaunt and his third wife, Katherine Swynford; Lady Margaret had her own (albeit weak) claim to the throne. Also, following the death of her father on 27th May, 1444, Margaret was one of the wealthiest heiress’ in the country, and a valuable match in the marriage market.

Young Mags B

Margaret Beaufort as a young woman?

Her first marital match was to John de la Pole, the son of the Duke of Suffolk. Margaret was around nine years old, and he around seven. However, this match was soon annulled, and the wardship passed back to King Henry VI, who lined up his step-brother, Edmund Tudor for her. He was twenty-four, and she was just twelve. By thirteen, Lady Margaret was heavily pregnant and widowed. But not to be defeated, she delivered a healthy son on 28th January, 1457. Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond (and future King, lest we forget).

Her third marriage was to Henry Stafford, the son of the Duke of Buckingham. Theirs seemed to be a happy marriage. Although inevitably marred by the dynastic warring that was happening all around her, and of course her son’s flight into exile in 1471.

Her third and final marriage was to Sir Thomas Stanley, earl of Derby. Most commentators have this down as a purely political match, and Lady Margaret’s main intention of the union to win support for her exiled son. However, little evidence seems to exist to shed much light on the true nature of the match.

What is true, however, Lady Margaret planned and worked tirelessly on behalf of her son. She put her name to Buckingham’s spectacularly failed rebellion against Richard III, and still plotted to get him to the top spot. Despite her four marriages, also, she had only one child (leading many to speculate that she had been permanently damaged by Henry’s birth).

From 1485, the Countess was also Queen Mother. However, according to her chaplain (John Fisher): at her son’s coronation, wept tears of grief, rather than joy, because she knew that Henry’s crown would soon be challenged (she was not wrong). So although she planned her son’s coronation, she was well aware of it’s attendant dangers.

It was possibly with this in mind that she set about securing her dynasty through great marriages. It was said to be her that planned and pushed for both the Spanish, and Scottish marriages for her two eldest grandchildren (Prince Arthur, and Princess Margaret).

In the end, she survived her son, and died shortly after the coronation of her grandson, Henry VIII. A long life, lived rather well.

 

The Tomb of Margaret Beaufort, Westminster Abbey

Pro-Henry = Anti-Richard?

Not necessarily; not in my books. In fact, I am currently reading and rather enjoying Paul Murray Kendall’s biography of Richard III. Anyway, I digress. This blog seems to have come to the attention of the Richard III Society Yahoo discussion group, and I am somewhat pre-empting this strike. This blog is neither anti-Richard, nor is it anti-Richard III Society. The Richard III Society is a gargantuan organisation, and not something I am inclined to tackle in one small blog, much less get into a slanging match with.

This blog really is set up simply to take a look at the life and reign of Henry VII. It is not meant to bash any of Henry VII’s predecessors, or demonise them in any way, shape, or form. Not even Richard III, who I rather like as it happens. But, seeing as there are already a multitude of blogs about Richard III, as well as the goliath of the Richard III Society, I was rather keen to create a blog about Henry VII just to give him a fair hearing, too. Everyone deserves that.

The “Last” Plantagenet?

Edward Plantagenet is a thorny subject. More often than not, he comes up in conversation and Henry VII is duly condemned for having executed a ‘mentally retarded, defenceless child.’ Over the course of the last few years I have actually lost count of how many times this has been repeated; often concluded with the doleful observation that he (Warwick) was ‘the last’ of the Plantagenets, (or broader still, the last of the heirs of the house of York). Given the emotive nature of the subject, I decided it was time to take a look at the facts surrounding his short life, his incarceration, and subsequent execution in December, 1499 (when he was twenty-four years of age).

 

Edward Plantagenet was born on 25th February 1475, to a family of impeccable pedigree. His mother, Isobel Nevill, was the elder daughter of Richard “Kingmaker” Nevill, 16th earl of Warwick. His father was George, duke of Clarence, brother of King Edward IV, and Richard, duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III). He also had an older sister, Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury.

 

However, his younger years were rather turbulent. His mother died in the year 1476, and his father was executed two years after that; leaving him an orphan at the age of three. However, his wardship seems to have been bought by the Marquess of Dorset in 1481, so he at least was not left to languish in penury. From there, the trail seems to run cold, up until 1485.

 

In August of that year, King Richard III was defeated by Henry, earl of Richmond. Upon his ascension to the crown, Henry VII realised the potential trouble that Warwick could attract. Pre-empting the disaffected Yorkist strike, Henry had the boy lodged in the Tower of London as protection from others using him as a rallying point for rebellion. A natural fear, as he was the nephew of both Edward IV and Richard III, giving him a claim to the throne (despite the taint of treason from his father).

 

The first serious threat to the young earl came early on, from Lambert Simnel. Simnel was the son of a tradesman, but was said to bear a striking resemblance to Richard of Shrewsbury (youngest son of Edward IV, and one the Princes who vanished in the depths of the Tower of London shortly after the usurpation of Richard of Gloucester). However, his handlers had a change of heart, and instead decide to set him up as Edward, earl of Warwick after rumours were spread that the real earl had already been secretly put to death.

 

Simnel was first taken to Ireland, where many Yorkist sympathies still lay. He was “crowned” as King Edward VI (in May, 1487), and an army was hastily mustered for an attack on England that same year. However, King Henry had already heard of the planned attack, and it was swiftly crushed. Henry, realising Simnel was a mere puppet, gave the boy a job turning the spits in the Palace kitchens (he eventually worked his way up to become one the King’s falconers – quite an esteemed position).

 

To prove that Warwick was still living, and quashing all rumours of his death, Henry paraded the boy publicly before returning him to the sanctuary of the Tower. Warwick suffered no more than that. However, in 1492, and altogether more serious threat arrived on the south coast of Ireland, and one that also proved to be stubbornly persistent.

 

Perkin Warbeck was “talent scouted” while posing in his masters fineries in Co. Cork. At first, he was mistaken for the earl of Warwick (just like Simnel before him), but soon he was being primed into posing as Richard of Shrewsbury (mentioned above). This paved the way for the next seven years of drifting around Europe, mounting half baked attacks on King Henry’s regime, and being an all round pain in the royal backside.

 

Finally, after one too many failed rebellions against Henry, Warbeck was flushed out of sanctuary at Beaulieu and promptly taken to the Tower. It was here that he and Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick were said to have conspired together to escape the Tower and flee the country. And it was for this reason, that both Warbeck and Warwick were executed. Warbeck was hanged as a commoner, and Warwick afforded the swifter, nobleman’s death, of beheading.

 

The earl’s trial was a farce. According to one recent biography of Henry VII, he had to be assisted every step of the way with his Court appearance. Other sources say that Warwick was only playing along with Warbeck, as he had been starved of attention during his long years of incarceration.

 

There is also the issue of his “mental retardation”. In all likelihood, he was uneducated, rather than retarded. He was shut away, pretty much alone, but for the company of a few attendants, in an imprisonment that stretched out for fourteen years. It is little wonder that his social skills were perhaps a little lacking. But full blown retardation is perhaps over-stating the case.

 

Then there is the issue of him being “the last of the Plantagenets”. He was, if you discount the likes of Elizabeth of York, whom Henry married (rather than murdered). Catherine of York also married, and had Henry Courtenay, who had a son of his own in time. Margaret Pole had a raft of sons. They were all descendants of the Plantagenets. So to say that Henry VII “wiped them all out” is just a slight exaggeration, to say the least! Yet, it gets repeated and repeated.

 

Of course I do not condone the manner in which Edward Plantagenet met his death. His life was spanned twenty-four short years, but he was not a child. Nor was his execution a flight of fancy. It was a brutal necessity to secure the stability of a fledgling dynasty that was trying with all its might to prevent much greater bloodshed further down the line.

 

Sources:

Penn, Thomas – The Winter King

 

Elton, GR – England Under The Tudors

 

Seward, Desmond – The Wars of The Roses.

 

 

The Great Escape of Henry Tudor!

Hello, and welcome to the new followers of “The Henry Tudor Experience”. First of all, I would like to apologise for the long absence. But this blog has been on something of a hiatus over the last few months, and it’s sister blog (The Thomas Cromwell Experience) has been hogging all my time! But, I thought I would break my silence after engaging in a furious debate with some staunch Ricardians, and then stumbling across an interesting little Henry related snippet in the news.

We all know that Henry was forced to flee his homeland following the Battle of Tewkesbury (4th May, 1471). With the Yorkists in hot persuit of him, he had to be hidden away to wait for a safe passage to France (where he would remain until 1485). Well, this is a small slide show of some pictures of the tunnels deep below the streets of Tenby, where Henry was said to have hidden from his would-be captors. (Link below).

Henry’s Hide Away

Life At Henry VII’s Court.

While reading through an article published in History Today on line, I found a link to this highly interesting article (“Life At Henry VII’s Court”), about Henry VII’s attitude towards the Renaissance, and Humanist Learning.

 

Although written almost forty years ago, it cites many primary sources, and uses contemporary information to shed light on the cultural activities at the English Court between 1485 – 1509. Well worth a read if you have ten minutes to spare!

 

Unfortunately, however, the original article I was reading spun King Henry’s interest in all things artistic and learned so that it appeared in a rather more negative light. It being intended as a rebuttal of Tucker’s essay. I’ll also post a link to that (“Learning To Be  A Tudor”).

 

Life At Henry VII’s Court.

 

Learning To Be A Tudor