Tag Archives: Henry Tudor

The Tudors: Season One, Episode One

WARNING- Contains spoilers

Any work of fiction, either on film or in a book, has to show you what normal is before the real plot can begin. Plot arcs must start low before rising in exposition. If the audience doesn’t understand how the characters normally act and what their lives have been like there is no way to understand how much change happens once the plot begins to move.

This episode does a very good job of showing us what “normal” was for the character “Henry VIII” and his court. We see a young king who spends his days working on the problems of the realm and international politics, while playing games with his friends, interacting with courtiers and spending time with his wife and mistress. At the end of the episode we get the first look at Anne Boleyn, but Henry has not seen her or her sister Mary yet.

The very beginning of this episode shows an English ambassador being murdered by French soldiers while at the court of the Duke of Urbino. This man is later referred to as Henry’s “uncle,” which immediately causes confusion. Henry had no blood uncles. His father, Henry VII, was an only child, and his mother’s two brothers went missing in the Tower in 1483 and were believed to be dead. The only uncles Henry had were from the marriages of his mother’s sisters, or his half-great-uncles from Margaret Beaufort. After looking at the husbands of the sisters of Elizabeth of York the only one that could be a candidate for this position was William Courtenay, the Earl of Devon, but he was not stabbed to death in Urbino and this show is too late to show a reaction to his death. He died in 1511 of “pleurisy” and was buried at Blackfriars. I believe this was invented to give the show more drama to the show, to give Henry more of a reason to hate the French and seek war against them as revenge.

Many other writers have already pointed out many things from this episode that are inaccurate, such as the lack of a historical Anthony Nivert or how Katherine of Aragon was actually a redhead or that Thomas Tallis was not at court as a young man. I am going to try to give those issues limited space.

My best guess as to the date of this episode comes from Bessie Blount’s pregnancy. Her child was born in 1519, and after she was married to Gilbert Tailboys. This means that the episode takes place in 1518 to early 1519. This will create many problems in future episodes, because Henry’s sister Mary was widowed by Louis XI of France in 1515, and married Charles Brandon in the same year. This means that the entire setup for Bradon’s character (played by Henry Cavill) is inaccurate, even before his marriage to “Margaret Tudor” is shown in upcoming episodes.

Henry had always had mistresses, and according to The Other Tudors by Philippa Jones (2009, Metro Books), Henry was a man fueled by romance and was a serial monogamist. He had regular and long-term mistresses, often staying with one mistress for years. This is not the Henry we are given in The Tudors. We are given a lusty and whoring king, more along with the reports of the sexual appetites of Henry’s grandfather, Edward IV. I have read several authors who believe that Henry’s later appetites for food and women were an attempt to emulate his grandfather. Did Henry have meaningless one-night-stands with random women at court? Perhaps. But in his account ledgers he is shown as giving gifts to one specific mistress at a time who was well-known at court and in rumor.

Jones also points out in her book that Henry seemed to sour on his mistress when she would become pregnant, quickly finding her a husband and having nothing to do with her again. Her argument is that he may have found the production of a child as a betrayal since he had spent years of bed sport with these women without ever making a child, showing that they were using some form of birth control. He may have seen these pregnancies as a deliberate way to try to force his hand in their relationship, and he may have resented it. Of course this is speculation, but we do know that the pregnancies of his mistresses appeared close to the end of their relationships. The show does display this well, and when we learn that Henry’s paramour Bessie Blount is pregnant, Henry pretends he is learning who she is for the first time. In the history we know that married Sir Gilbert Tailboys and had three children with him. The marriage seems to have been a happy one that was entered into after the birth of her child, so the character’s statement that her husband was threatening her with scandal and the convent is a fabrication.

I have to admit that there is a point of confusion for me when the Duke of Buckingham makes a comment that Henry’s only claim to the throne was a “bastard’s on his mother’s side.” I am not sure if he is referring to Richard III’s claim that Elizabeth of York and her siblings were bastards, or if he is referring to Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, since she was the only blood claim to the English throne that he had. The Beauforts started out as bastards and had been barred form the throne by Henry IV after they had been legitimated by Richard II and the pope. Buckingham’s comment works in both ways, even though his father had rejected Richard’s claim of bastardy of Elizabeth of York when he helped to plan the rebellion against Richard that we associate with his title, the Rebellion of 1483. In the same way he showed that he did not care about Henry VII’s Beaufort blood being a bastard line, because he agreed that if his rebellion had been successful he would have welcomed Henry of Richmond to the throne. We have no way of knowing if he was serious or if he planned to take the throne for himself, as he was executed for his efforts in the rebellion.

The girl who plays the child Princess Mary is just too darn cute! I adore the actress Sarah Bolger, who later plays an older Mary, and I became very excited when I heard her work on the video game “Bioshock.” But little girl Mary is adorable, and a wonderful casting. Wrong hair color, but I don’t think they could ask a child to dye her hair.

One of the biggest plot points of this episode is the setup for the Field of Cloth of Gold. This expedition to France happened in 1520. The other was the introduction of the lovely Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn. I will be discussing these topics more in future episodes.

Additional Reading:

The Creation of Anne Boleyn

The Tudors Wiki

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Henry Tudor, a Proud Welshman

I gotta say, I like the way Nathen thinks!

To the average member of the public, no Royal Dynasty has come to represent England and Englishness as the Tudors, a multi-generational 16th Century force that dragged England out of the bleak and dreary middle ages and into the renaissance period that enabled the Kingdom to become a superpower on the global scene. England became a mighty nation during the reign of sequential Tudors, rapidly growing in a self-assurance and assertiveness that would later blossom into the dominant British Empire under their successors. It was under this Dynasty that England broke with Rome, that the English vanquished their aggressive Spanish foe through the defeat of the infamous Armada and that the world was given the immortal playwright William Shakespeare. Arguably the most overlooked Tudor monarch is the very man who began the dynasty, Henry Tudor, that great opportunist who is arguably one of the country’s greatest overachievers. Born fatherless and…

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William Hastings, the Man Richardians Want to Forget

When I have spoken with Richardians about Henry VII they often point out the innocents who were executed during his reign. One name is always brought up- Edward, the 17th Earl of Warwick. Warwick was the son of George, Duke of Clarence, and grandson of Richard Neville. He had spent most of his life as a prisoner. Under Henry VII Warwick was found to be guilty of treason because he had given his support to Perkin Warbeck. The 24-year-old earl was executed on November 28, 1499. He is believed to have been a simple boy and the charges against him may have been dubious, but in the end Warwick was too risky of a prisoner and had to be executed to make Henry and his family safe on the throne and prevent the country from returning to the days of civil war.

“Richard never killed anyone innocent like that!” his fans have often exclaimed, while we all know that Henry VII did just that. Of course there is one name that will cause them to look very uncomfortable: Baron William Hastings.

The death of Hastings is a little questionable, but there are some things we do know about what happened that day. When his friend and cousin-by-marriage Edward IV died suddenly, Hastings promised to do everything in his power to assist the next king, Edward IV’s son Edward, now known as Edward V, and make sure that he was safe on the throne. With his brother now dead, Richard of Gloucester had his nephews confined to the Tower, where they were never seen again.

It is not clear where Hastings’ loyalties actually lay. While he was a loyal and true best friend to the now-deceased king, when Richard seized the throne he did so with the support of Hastings. Richard kept Hastings in his seat on the Privy Council, and most accounts of the days before the day he died show that there was no rift between the two men.

What we do know is this:

On the 13th of June, 1483 Richard called a meeting of the privy counsel to the Tower, where he was residing. Hastings came in and by some accounts the meeting went well and Hastings left with the other council members without incident. Some accounts show that as the meeting came to an end Richard turned on Hastings, accusing him and other council members of working with Elizabeth Woodville’s family through Edward IV’s former mistress (who had become Hasting’s mistress) to restore her son to the succession. Hastings was allowed to leave while of the other members of the council were arrested.

While the activities inside of the Tower are up to debate, most agree with what happened when the meeting ended. While the true motive is unknown, when Hastings stepped out of the Tower onto the Green the guards grabbed him and hastily removed his head. No charges were given against him and no arrest was attempted. He was executed very suddenly, and the real reason for it is unknown.

I have heard Richardians say that he made Richard mad, and that’s why he was executed. Of course that doesn’t sound like the makings of a good king, since under the Magna Carta no monarch can end a citizen’s life without charges and a trial. Though some have said that the trial of the Earl of Warwick was a sham, he still had charges and a trial. By executing Hastings in such a way, Richard not only became a tyrant but frightened all the other lords and made them question their own safety. If Richard did not think it was necessary to give someone due process before their execution, there was no reason to believe he wouldn’t kill anyone else at any time. More frightening, there was no reason to believe that Richard would follow any of the laws that were supposed to be imposed on him by Magna Carta, which made him even more dangerous. Is it any wonder that so many lords had no problem turning on him in 1483 and again in 1485?

My apologies to any Richardian who thinks that this is an unfair assessment. In my opinion Richard was NOT a good king for no other reason than he thought he was above the law. Compare that to Henry VII, who went through with trials of people he believed to be threats against him and went to Parliament to raise funds to go to war. This show a healthy respect for law, even if it forced Henry to undertake actions he may have found superfluous or unnecessary. Richard clearly did not have any respect for the law, and if he had been king longer, I don’t doubt we would have seen more deviations from the rule of law in the rest of his reign.

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A Tudor Enigma: Roland de Veleville

Roland de Veleville was born c. 1474 in the duchy of Brittany. While the identity of his mother is still unknown, she appears to have been related to the Counts of Durtal, who lived in the town of Nantes. He came to England at some point between 1485 and 1494, when he participated in a joust. During the reign of Henry VII he lived comfortably, but was kept in a slightly extended form of adolescence. Under Henry VIII he became his own man and started a family. In 1967 Professor S.B. Chrimes wrote a short paper that was published in the Welsh Historical Journal. In this paper Chrimes claimed he had disproved the centuries-old belief that de Veleville was Henry VII (Henry Tudor)’s illegitimate son. In the following two decades this paper influenced historians who were writing about Henry VII, because if Chrimes wrote it then it must be accurate. De Veleville was written out of the history, only beginning to regain attention and time in the 1990s. Chrimes’ paper has now been widely discredited, but the question he rose continues to influence attitudes towards de Veleville.

I first stumbled into the story of Roland de Veleville’s life in the fall of 2011 when I was researching Henry VII’s time in exile. Quickly I became fascinated with him. Who was this man, whose life was so extraordinary? Where did he fit in? The information on him in secondary sources is limited but very illuminating. Is it a coincidence that our limited information on the identity of his mother’s family shows that they may have lived in the same town that Henry Tudor was being housed in around the time that de Veleville would have been conceived? Though the exact date of de Veleville’s birth is not known, based on his age when he was active in the Tudor court places it about 1474.

At the beginning of October, 1473, Henry Tudor was moved to Nantes. Early in 1474 he was separated from his uncle, Jasper Tudor. His English servants were replaced with Bretons, and he was moved to the care of the Marshall of Brittany, Jean IV de Rieux, at his house in Largoet. Henry’s accommodations in the Marshall’s house were on the 6th floor, and even though he had always been a prisoner now he became more of one. Could it be that Henry had found a Breton girlfriend, and she was pregnant? The debate about the identity of de Veleville’s mother has pointed to the Admiral of France, Jean de Quelenhec’s wife’s family, so if Henry had started a relationship with a relative of hers it would have been motive to move him away from that area.

Please keep in mind that at this point Henry did not have any prospects. From 1471 until 1483, his mother worked to have his lands and his title, Earl of Richmond, returned to him and for him to be guaranteed safe passage back to Wales from King Edward IV. There were several times when this offer was extended to Henry but he never accepted it. His place in the line to the throne was not certain until 1483, when Richard III took the throne, declared his nephews and nieces bastards, and the “Princes in the Tower” went missing. In 1474 Henry was a beggar- a 17-year-old man without a title and without income, and no sure way to gain either back. That he would have remained a virgin until he was married night when he28-years-old is not only incomprehensible but very much against the times. Noble men without bastards were seen as abnormal- even his uncle Jasper had at least one bastard, and he spend the better part of twenty years in exile as an attainted traitor.

The unbelievable part of de Veleville’s life started after Henry of Richmond became Henry VII, following the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485. While there is no proof that de Veleville was in England at this time, we know that he had started living at Westminster before 1494, when he participated in a tournament to celebrate his half-brother Henry’s ascension to Duke of York, though some records show that he may have been in the king’s house by 1488. Under Henry VII he had only one official address: he lived in the palace of Westminster, where he was housed in the royal apartments. He was not noble, and was not given any titles. He was knighted after the Battle of Blackheath in 1497, but never achieved any title higher than knight. He was given a pension of 40 marks per year by the king. Henry VII is known for being notoriously cautious when it came to money, never spending more than he could, to the point of being called a “miser.” This makes the gift even more astonishing. While living with the royal family, de Veleville had no job or position in the house.

The unofficial job that de Veleville seems to have filled was that of a royal companion, spending his time with the king. He is recorded as being an “obsessive jouster,” which made him into an excellent soldier and later commander, and practice seems to have been how he spent most of his time. He went hunting and hawking with the king and was permitted to enter the falcon mew and interact with the royal birds. He seems to have spent the rest of his time gambling and drinking, and his income would have provided ample funds for this. He does not seem to have been a good businessman, and did not try to gain property until later in his life, and had not built up an estate by the time of death. It would seem that never having to pay for anything involved with his upkeep for 24 years did not give him a sound financial education.

His participation in the joust in 1494 has larger implications, because he was not yet a knight. Only knights and noblemen could participate in a tournament, and for him to be allowed to participate. That the actual peers were willing to participate with him shows that they knew how high he really was, that they would not see it as in insult to their honor to be forced to joust with him.

De Veleville held some notable positions in the public ceremonies of the royal house. He attended the funeral of Henry VII, and he was one of the mourners at the funeral and interment of Henry VIII’s son, Henry, in 1511. He fought in the Battle of the Spurs, and was in the royal party at the Field of Cloth of Gold in Calais in 1520.

In 1509, Henry VII died and his son Henry VIII was crowned, Roland de Veleville had not moved past the position he held since coming to the Tudor court. In July of 1509 he was created the Constable of Beaumaris Castle in North Anglesey, Wales. It is unclear if this position was initially granted by Henry VII but signed to law by Henry VIII after their father’s death. This was de Veleville’s first official job, and it came with it the second-highest income in North Wales (the highest went to Charles Brandon). When parliament tried to block the payment of both of these pensions, Henry VIII reinstated them. De Veleville moved from the king’s court to Beaumaris, where he lived for the rest of his life, only leaving when Henry VIII ordered him to court or to war. This position comes at a key moment, because de Veleville was given the mechanism to leave court right as his half-brother became king and wouldn’t want an older bastard brother hanging around, despite their affection for each other.

This affection between brothers has been recorded several times. De Veleville was imprisoned for several months in 1517 for “slandering the king’s Council.” He was released when he wrote an apology (though it seems to have taken him some time to agree to do so), but his release was contingent upon him “attending upon the king and not departing without license.” De Veleville having been ordered to stay in the household of the king until given permission to leave means that he had to stay with the king, at court, until the king released him so he could return home to Wales. It is a weird way to punish a criminal, but the crime itself is one that shows how close he was to the king. Keep in mind that he is not a peer of the realm, but his speaking out against the members of the king’s council was enough of a threat to their positions at court to warrant an arrest and imprisonment. This means that he had a close enough connection to the king to be able to influence him and damage other courtiers. This is not the kind of influence you would expect from a random knight in Wales, and shows that he had a connection to the king beyond his position as Constable.

After de Veleville’s death in 1535, Henry VIII is recorded as remembering him fondly. In 1544 when Henry was calling in troops for a campaign in France he was told that no men would be coming from North Wales. He is said to have to have been surprised, because when de Veleville was Constable he was able to bring in a great number of men and leave enough to maintain the castle and the port. This is shows their closeness, because it is the only known record of this king commenting on the skills of a knight. Henry VIII was also not known to miss anyone after their deaths. His recorded statements of lament for courtiers, advisors and even wives who had died are very few. For him to be looking back at de Veleville’s service and lament the loss of him as a commander is one of the most unique things about either of the men.

Based on all the evidence we have currently, it seems more likely than not that Roland de Veleville was the bastard son of King Henry VII. There are far too many odd coincidences, and he was positioned way too close to the throne to say that he was just “lucky,” or that he was a recipient of royal favor like the sons of of fallen men that Henry VII owed a debt to. His favor remained for his entire life, into the reign of Henry VIII, with whom he had a personal and affectionate relationship. It is a shame that the paper in 1967 has corrupted de Veleville’s memory, because he was an extraordinary and fascinating man.

Further Reading:

Chrimes, S.B. (June 1967). Sir Roland de Veleville. Welsh History Review, Vol. 3, no. 3. Pages 287-289.

Cook, E. Thornton. (1928). Her Majesty: The Romance of the Queens of England, 1066-1910. New York: E.P. Dutton and Company.

Jones, Philippa. (2009). The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards. New York: Metro Books.

Milne, Graham. A Man of Kingly Line and of Earl’s Blood. Retrieved from: http://www.happywarrior.org/genealogy/roland.htm#21

Robinson, W.R.B. (June 1991). Sir Roland Veleville and the Tudor Dynasty: A Reassessment. Welsh Historical Review, Vol. 15, no. 3. Pages 351-367.

Skidmore, Chris. Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors. (2013). London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Soden, Iain. (2013). Royal Exiles: From Richard the Lionheart to Charles II. Gloucester: Amberley Publishing.

Weir, Alison. (1989). Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy. London: Vintage Books.

Weir, Alison. (2013). Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World. New York: Ballantine Books.

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Jasper Tudor and Edward IV- No Love Lost Between Enemies

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Katherine Woodville and Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke and Duke of Bedford

I have been re-reading the section on Jasper Tudor’s life prior to 1485 in Ralph A. Griffiths’ and Roger S. Thomas’ book, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty. I felt compelled to share some of their conclusions, because Jasper has been misrepresented in the fictional world recently.

Jasper is one of the possibly four children born to Katherine of Valois and Owen Tudor (Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur), and generally believed to be the youngest boy. He and his brother Edmund spent their youth at Barking Abbey, where they were raised as the noblemen they were. Their half-brother, King Henry VI, ennobled them with the titles Earl of Richmond and Earl of Pembroke, which made them the highest ranking earls in the country, second only to dukes.

Thomas and Griffiths have hypothesized that Henry VI was grooming his half-brothers to become his heirs if his marriage remained childless, which is an interesting idea (p. 33). Could two men who were half-Welsh and half-French claim the throne of England? It wouldn’t be the first time someone of non-Anglo blood would take the throne. However, this idea may have been pushed forward when Henry VII was king, since if his father was the heir of Henry VI after his son Edward died, that would mean that Henry was taking his father’s place as the heir to the king.

Jasper’s relationship with Richard, the 3rd Duke of York and father of Edward IV, is a stark contrast to his later relationship with the son. When Henry VI first slipped into his “waking sleep,” Richard of York wanted to be made into Regent instead of Queen Margaret of Anjou. Richard was of royal blood and a descendant of King Edward III, as was his wife. He did not want the French queen to have control of the country in her husband’s absence, and Jasper Tudor supported him in this effort, presumably because he knew that his sister-in-law was not popular with the people, nor truly capable of ruling the country by herself. Her lack of English blood only made Richard’s case stronger.

Richard and Jasper served on the King ’s Counsel together, and there are no reasons to think that their relationship was anything but pleasant. The later fissure started when Richard took up arms against Henry VI, and demanded to be made into Henry’s heir instead of Prince Edward of Lancaster. This was not a position Jasper could support, and he took up arms to support his brother. The duke was killed in battle at Wakefield in 1460. Richard’s head was put on a pike with a paper crown on him, as he was a traitor who wanted to be king. His son Edward, then the Earl of March, took up the cause of his father and was crowned in 1461.

Griffiths and Thomas make an interesting comparison between the death of Duke Richard and the execution of Owen Tudor. Edward took Owen as prisoner in 1461 after the battle of Mortimer’s Cross. Instead of being ransomed or forced to support Edward’s side, as was customary, Owen was executed. Griffiths and Thomas say that this act was revenge for the death of Duke Richard a year earlier (p. 52-53). We do know that Owen did not believe that he would be executed, and it’s said that it wasn’t until the axman moved his collar out of the way that he finally realized that he would die, saying, “That head shall lie on the stock that was wont to lie on Queen Katherine’s lap.”

Through the deaths of both of their fathers, the enmity between Edward IV and Jasper Tudor was solidified. Jasper was attainted for treason in 1461 and had his title and property confiscated by the crown. He spent the next eight years in exile, until Henry VI was restored in 1470. He went into exile again in 1471 when Edward came back to the throne and Henry VI died, but this time he took his 14-year-old nephew with him, the future Henry VII.

Jasper had a large amount of influence on the young boy. Edward IV promised that if Henry returned to Wales, he would have his title and property returned to him. The king later sweetened this deal by promising him one of Edward’s princesses as a bride. Henry’s mother , Margaret Beaufort, was involved in this exchange, and is recalled as giving her support to Edward so that her son could come back home. Henry did not accept this bargain, and until 1483 he did not leave Brittany.

I believe that Henry’s refusal to accept Edward’s terms was influenced by Jasper. Given their encounters in 1460-62, it is not a surprise that Jasper was not keen to give Edward his trust. Jasper’s attainder meant that he could never return to England, unless Edward or his successors gave him a pardon. All of the temptations given to Henry did not extend to his uncle, so Jasper would have been in exile alone if Henry had returned to Wales. I also think that Jasper would not tolerate the idea of his nephew having a place in the court of the man who killed both his grandfather and his uncle. After Edward’s death it would have been easier to accept Henry’s inclusion into the royal family, but while Edward was still alive I think that Jasper would have seen that as a betrayal of everything he had fought for and lost.

We may never know how much of Henry’s reluctance to return to Wales was due to Jasper’s influence. But the Earl of Pembroke and the York king could never have become friends. As Jasper had his nephew in his care, he could not have been eager to send the boy to a place of possible danger. If Jasper and Edward had been friends, the shape of the next 118-years would have been very different.

References:

Griffiths, Ralph A. & Roger S. Thomas. The Making of the Tudor Dynasty. 1985. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

For more information on Jasper Tudor, you can check out Debra Bayani’s blog, War of the Roses Catalogue. She is currently working on a well awaited biography of Jasper.

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The White Queen- Episode 9

WARNING: This post contains spoilers.

This was the first episode of “White Queen” that I turned off mid-show in disgust. I had to force myself to watch it in its entirety, so I could write about it. I now understand what all my friends have said, that they gave up on it after a certain point. This nearly was my point.

The main focuses of this episode are on the disappearance and death of the princes, and Buckingham’s rebellion. Some of it was done very well, specifically Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville working together through their physician, Dr. Lewis Caerleon. Some of it has been altered so far from what the sources say that it is nearly unidentifiable. Much of these alterations are due to changes from earlier episodes, but some are due either to bias towards or against a character, or for unknown reasons.

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As the episode starts up, we learn that Elizabeth’s son Thomas Grey has delivered her son Richard, Duke of York, to Flanders, and she later gets a letter from him. Of course there is no documentary evidence of this. Thomas did not give support to Perkin Warbeck, which is further proof that he was not Richard of York, and that Richard did die in the Tower.

After the unsuccessful attempt at rescuing the princes from the tower, all of our main characters become involved in the plot. Anne Neville has already wished that the boys were dead, because only then could she and Richard be “safe” on the throne. Thomas Stanley has forced Margaret Beaufort to choose between “save and slaughter,” of which she chooses death, though at least she seems torn about it.

Here is the real history.

Henry Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham had been one of Richard III’s best friends. He helped to put Richard on the throne, and had a healthy amount of anger at the Woodvilles, since he had been married to Elizabeth’s sister since childhood and resented it. At some point during 1483, Buckingham fights with Richard and leaves the court. It was then that he throws his support with his wife’s family and with Margaret. His motivation and personal objective in the rebellion are not known. He had a claim to the throne himself, and even though the show has him swearing fealty to Henry, we do not know if he intended to support Henry or if he was fighting for himself.

The rebellion was hashed out by the three we see in the show planning: Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Buckingham, but the actual events are out of time or are not based in historical evidence. By the time Buckingham left Richard’s court, the princes had already gone missing. Who killed them, or ordered their deaths, is still a mystery. According to Thomas More, who researched the case for Henry VII, Richard ordered their deaths and they were smothered with pillows as they slept. I personally believe that it was Buckingham, who either did it on Richard’s orders or because he thought it was what Richard wanted. For me, this also explains his removal from court. Some believe that the princes were still alive when Henry VII became king two years later, but I have a hard time believing that. If they were still alive and Richard had them, why didn’t he show them off to the public to prove his innocence? Naysayers claim that if he had killed the boys, Richard would have displayed their bodies, to prove that they were in fact dead and that he was the only remaining heir. I do not believe that he would have shown off their corpses because they were boys, which is not something the people would want to see. Margaret was not even a suspect until the misogynistic James I was on the throne, who disliked her Catholicism and her power, but there was no actual evidence that she was involved in any way.

Elizabeth involved herself in the rebellion because she believed her sons were already dead. Henry Tudor was officially betrothed to Princess Elizabeth, and the Woodvilles joined in the rebellion. Richard Grey and Anthony Woodville were killed for their participation in the rebellion. Elizabeth’s son Thomas and brother Edward ended up in Brittany with Henry Tudor after the failure, as did the other rebels. Many of the men who went to Henry were put into positions of importance once he became king, and they prospered into the reign of his son, Henry VIII.

The show has Buckingham waiting to meet Henry in Wales, so that their two armies could combine and then challenge Richard. This is not how the rebellion was planned to start. The Woodvilles and those loyal to Edward IV were to rise up at the same time as Buckingham so that there were multiple fronts for Richard to try to deal with at the same time. Henry was to land on the eastern coast of England to create another front. The hope was that as the armies fought Richard he would lose men, arms and support trying to fight them all, so once they were able to join together he would be done. The Woodvilles and rebel Yorkists did rise up, but Buckingham got stuck in the west due to the weather. They lost, and Buckingham was executed on November 2nd.

We see Henry in Brittany failing to depart because of the storm on the English Channel. The real Henry actually did sail, and the storm didn’t start until he was already at sea. Though he lost some of his ships and men due to the storm, his remaining boats made it to Plymouth Harbour. Henry was met by a group who told him to wait because Buckingham was coming to meet up with him soon, so he sent a group of Bretons to the beach to see what was happening. Once he received word that Buckingham had already been executed, Henry took off back across the Channel, leaving the Bretons to be taken prisoner by Richard. Because of the bad weather, Henry lost more ships and ended up in France. He had to wait for King Charles VIII to give him permission to cross back to Brittany by land, because Richard had sent ships into the Channel to hunt for him. That permission was granted, and Henry and Jasper went back to Brittany, sending a few boats out to serve as decoys.

There are several problems with the curse that Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York perform at the end. Richard, in a private visit to try to prove that he wasn’t the one who killed the boys, tells them that the curse may “turn on someone you love.” If Richard heard them talking about doing witchcraft, it would not have been taken lightly. Even though he refuses to pull them out of sanctuary when Anne demands it (as if she did not know it would be a mortal sin to do so), he would not be able to look the other way when they admit to him that they practice witchcraft.

The curse is supposed to kill the first-born son of the person who murdered the princes, and the first-born grandson, and so on. Additionally, they would be able to see who the guilty party was because of the curse acting through the generations. If we are considering that Margaret Beaufort and Henry Stafford are the ones who killed them, as the show says, why didn’t Henry VII die, or Stafford’s son Edward, being the eldest sons of the murderers? If we look at this curse in a literal way, the person who has a first-born son die right away is Richard III, whose son Edward died in 1484. We are being told that because Henry and Elizabeth of York’s son Arthur died at the age of 15 in 1502, and because Henry VIII’s son Henry by Katherine of Aragon died when he was a month old in 1511, those events prove that Margaret was guilty. But it doesn’t make much sense when you look at the scope of the suspects and how this curse should have punished them. Instead, we are told that the evidence that supports this theory is correct, but any contradictory evidence is not worthy of attention.

Elizabeth Woodville tells her daughter Elizabeth that she is still betrothed to Henry, but the princess refuses to accept it. She plays with a deck of cards, saying that fortune will give her another husband. She pulls a card, which shows a king, and places it down next to the card with a blond queen. Which king is this? We are told in the next episode, and I will wait until then to discuss it. Also in the next episode we will see the brief peace under Richard, Henry’s return, the Battle of Bosworth and his rise to become Henry VII.

Further reading:

Bank St. Irregular: “The Princes in the Tower and the King Under the Car Park” 

Amy Licence for New Statesman: “New Evidence: Was Richard III Guilty of Murdering the Princes in the Tower?”

The Unromantic Richard III: “A Belated Buckingham Blog Post, With Help From the Bard”

Wars of the Roses: “Buckingham’s Revolt (1483)”

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The White Queen- Episode 8

WARNING: This contains spoilers.

King Edward IV died suddenly on the 9th of April, 1483. The actual cause of his death is unknown, but guesses range from a flu virus, to fishing on the Thames at Easter, to having eaten too much raw fruits and vegetables. He made Richard of Gloucester and William Hastings promise to work together to put his son, now Edward V, on the throne and assist him until his majority (“minority” being when he was still a child, “majority” being when he becomes an adult), setting up Richard as Lord Protector and guardian of the new king. It is Edward’s death that created a power vacuum that escalates the tension between York and Lancaster.

The show has Henry on a boat, ready to return to England, and he only stops when he learns that Edward is sick. Henry never once stepped foot on a boat from 1471 until Buckingham’s rebellion in late 1483. There were several times that the advisors who were running Brittany for Duke Francis attempted to ship Henry back to England, but each time he was able to stall and never was put on the ships. As I explained in the blog for episode 7, Henry never accepted any of Edward’s attempts at pardons and restitution.

We later see Henry making love to a woman on the boat. She is not named, but the way she holds his face and kisses him, and how he holds and kisses her, shows that she is not some random street whore. Jasper also hints that she is more when he tells her that “this isn’t goodbye.” To me, there is only one woman that can be, an unnamed woman he was involved with and in love with in Brittany, possibly the mother of Roland de Veleville. This is very controversial, because de Veleville’s parentage has been questioned, as has any romantic entanglements Henry would have been involved with while in exile. After looking through the evidence, I do believe that he is Henry’s son, as he occupies a very bizarre place in Henry VII’s court without official explanation. Even if did not create a love child, it is not hard to imagine that a man in his 20s would start a relationship with a local woman he was attracted to. We do know that he was a very loyal and romantic husband to Elizabeth of York, so for him to act that way with someone else is plausible.

Edward is alone with Elizabeth in his room when she catches him getting sick. Kings and queens always had servants around them, whose job it was to watch over them. They had body servants who would have been there at the first hint of illness, ready to get him into bed and nurse him back to heath, with the physicians of course. This show has shockingly few servants in the royal household.

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After Edward’s death, Duchess Cecily says that she is now equal to Elizabeth, since they are both “mothers to a king.” That could not be less true. Cecily is a Dowager Duchess, and Elizabeth is a Dowager Queen, who outranks a Duchess. The only woman Elizabeth would be second to is a new Queen; she is still the highest-ranking woman in the country.

Safely at Westminster, Prince Richard, Duke of York, says that the Battle of Barnet was “the greatest victory in English history,” but he seems to be forgetting a few. Like the Battle of Hastings, or Agincourt, or Crecy, or Poitiers. These stories would have been told to him over and over again, as great victories.

Jane Shore is removed from court. In the history, she goes to William Hastings. As there is no Hastings in the show, she goes to Anthony Woodville. Anthony takes Hastings’ place at another key moment: the execution of Hastings. This alteration becomes one of the biggest pieces of fiction in this episode. The arrests and executions of Anthony Woodville and Richard Grey are shown as the spark that lights the powder keg before Buckingham’s rebellion. The real spark was actually Hastings’ execution. Richard had already named himself as king, and was having a council meeting in the Tower, of which Hastings was a member. The stories differ on what happened at the meeting, but as he was leaving the Tower, guards grabbed him and cut his head off. This was an illegal execution, because he was not charged and not given a trial. It gave every man in England reason to fear Richard as a king, because if he didn’t follow the law that time, what proof was there that he would in the future? Anthony and Richard Grey were captured and executed, but not until after Buckingham’s rebellion. Without the execution of Hastings, there is no motivation for Buckingham to rebel.

The other piece of fiction is that Elizabeth sent her son Richard, Duke of York, away and put another boy in his place, and that Richard became Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the throne under Henry VII. There is no reason to believe that Warbeck was actually Richard. Neither Elizabeth Woodville nor Elizabeth of York ever claimed that they had sent Richard away, and Elizabeth of York did not support Warbeck. If he had been sent away, why wouldn’t they have spoken of it? Besides that, why did Richard III not recognize that this boy wasn’t his nephew? Why did Edward V call out that it wasn’t his brother? Was there some sort of emergency family plan: “If your uncle takes you to the Tower and I send a random boy in and he says he’s your brother, go along with it so that at least your real brother won’t die. But you probably will, so, sorry for the bad luck.”

Richard becomes more of a monster here, riding like a demon to get his nephew for no other reason than his mother was trying to get him first. For a man who talks about only wanting his honor, he is very willing to act dishonestly. Anne Neville and Duchess Cecily don’t have to push him very far for him to believe the bigamy charge against his brother and take the throne. I have always been bothered by Richard’s easy belief in the lack of legality behind Edward and Elizabeth’s marriage, because he took part in convicting George as a traitor for saying the same thing. If it was now believed to be true and the princes were bastards, Clarence’s charge of treason was invalid and his attainder should have been lifted, so then his son should have been king. No matter how you look at Richard’s assent to the throne, there is always someone that should have had it instead of him. I do not know how much of his motivation was his wife Anne whispering in his ear that he should be king, but it is possible.

There is still more to come. The next episode centers around Buckingham’s rebellion and the involvement of both Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville, so there will be much to discuss.

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The White Queen- Episode 7

WARNING: This contains spoilers.

This episode picks up a year later, in 1473. We see many things that are the same. Edward IV is still whoring around. Elizabeth Woodville is pregnant again. Margaret Beaufort is a maid in her household. Thomas Stanley seems to be filling the void we have without William Hastings, as a courtier who encourages Edward’s excessive pleasures and takes part in them as well. Both Richard of Gloucester and George of Clarence are not happy with Edward’s behavior but are still participating with him.

Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Richard, Duke of York, on August 17th, 1473. The scene where Margaret brings his dead body to life is fictional. Earlier when Margaret had been kicked out of the birthing chamber by an angry, laboring Elizabeth, she utters one of the worst lines in the entire series: “She loves only her own vanity!” Firstly, as the Elizabeth in the show has no vanity, the line becomes even odder. Secondly, this is telling of her character in Philippa Gregory’s book, The Red Queen– a woman who is slightly insane and thinks that everyone else is evil, but she’s perfect and good. She does or says the exact same thing as Elizabeth, but Elizabeth’s a “whore” and a “sinner,” while Margaret thinks she should be a saint. It makes her into the perfect antagonist, but this personality is completely an invention of the author.

This “do as I say, not as I do” description also applies to Richard of Gloucester. He is very self-righteous, and in this episode steals the Countess of Warwick so that George can’t steal her. His wife, Anne Neville, points out this hypocrisy to him, but he doesn’t get it. He says that he marries Anne for love, but he works very hard for her money. He even tells Anne that he doesn’t care about having children; he just wants her and his “honor.” I still believe that most of this is an attempt to make him more likeable, but he is so condescending, disingenuous and scheming that you just can’t like him at all.

Clarence descends into madness as the episode goes on, from paranoia to hiring his own magician to combat Elizabeth’s “dark arts,” to fighting with the king in public. In 1478 he was found guilty of treason and executed. I agree with David Starkey that George being the “2nd person” to Edward was the source of his downfall. Starkey says that because he was next in line to the throne, he was the center of so many plots. If Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth was invalid because he was already married to another woman, his children would be bastards and could not inherit the throne, leaving it instead to George (this is the story that got him executed, not that the queen is a witch). George was rich, he had men, and his title was the one traditionally given to the king’s second son. The only thing standing in his way was Edward and his sons. Plots to put George on the throne wouldn’t stop as long as there were people who wanted Edward gone. He is doomed from the start to eventually be executed because he is just in a place of extreme risk.

A side note on the actor who plays Clarence, David Oakes. He was on the Showtime show “The Borgias,” as Juan Borgia, the second son of Pope Alexander VI. In the show and in the history, there was a bull on the Borgia crest.  In the scene where they are celebrating Edward’s 15-years on the throne, the mask George is wearing is a bull. It’s an interesting coincidence.

Clarence’s execution sets up one of the best performances in the show. Duchess Cecily of York, played by Caroline Goodall, is so devastated by the execution of her “favorite” son that she screams, cries, demands, and threatens Edward to pardon George. She lays face down, begging him with her arms out in supplication. When he tries to get away from her, she grabs onto his legs and he can’t get her off. It’s wonderfully done. You pity her in her desperation to save him.

Clarence’s death in the keg of wine may be true, but it’s up to debate. When he was sentenced, Edward gave him the choice of to pick the method of his execution. The story is that he chose the malmsey wine both because he was a drunkard, but also because it was so ridiculous that he did not think Edward would approve pardon him instead. It didn’t work. He was still executed, but if he was actually drowned in wine or was killed in a different way is still open to debate. Dramatically it is far more interesting than the standard beheading, because the red wine becomes very visual. There is no blood, but parts of his shirt become dyed red and the red liquid sloshing around looks amazing.

Clarence’s children’s come to sad fates. His son, Edward, became Earl of Warwick after his grandfather. He was kept in prison by Henry VII, being the last legitimately born male of the house of York. He was found guilty of treason after attempting to support Perkin Warbeck, and was executed in 1499.  Clarence’s daughter Margaret married Richard Pole, had children, and became Countess of Salisbury after her father. Under Henry VIII she was found guilty of treason, as was her family. Her son Henry was executed in 1538, and she followed in 1541. Her grandson Henry was imprisoned for the rest of his life, until he died in 1542. Being so close to the throne was deadly.

After George has died, Edward promises that if Henry Tudor comes back from Brittany, his land and title will be restored. Edward dangled this promise to Henry many times while he was in exile. Some of his letters to Duke Francis of Brittany and some of Margaret’s letters have survived, so we know that this was offered to Henry. Not only was he being promised restitution and safe passage to Wales, but he was offered one of Edward’s daughters in marriage, so he could become part of the royal family. There is no reason to doubt Edward’s sincerity in this offer, since he was very secure on the throne, and Henry had such a dubious claim to it. In the end Henry did not accept the offer, and his reasons for staying in exile are more complex. I believe that he was heavily influenced by his uncle Jasper, who could not return to Wales. Jasper had already been attainted, and he had no love for or trust in Edward. Henry may have been influenced by Jasper, which is why he chose to remain in exile instead of returning home, even with all of the effort Margaret had been putting into his cause.

Thomas Stanley points out to Margaret that her son has to walk past five coffins to get to the throne. The show hints at Margaret figuring out how this can be achieved, by praying about it and putting a candle out with her tears. This should only serve as a reminder of how amazing it was that he could have a chance at the throne. It was not a goal until Richard III’s usurpation of the throne. This early and with so many in line before him, it was not even a hope. All the real Margaret wanted was for him to be allowed to return to his lands in Wales and live there safely with his title returned.

The next episode is going to set up the events that push Henry toward the throne. See you then!

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The White Queen- Episode 5

WARNING: This post contains spoilers.

FYI: I learned this week that Starz will be producing and airing “The White Princess,” a follow-up miniseries to “The White Queen.” It will be based on the book by Philippa Gregory of that name. As of right now I have not read it yet, since friends have given me their reviews of it, which did not appeal to me. Because it covers Henry VII’s reign I will pick it up at some point, but so far the reviews have deterred me from it. As fictional as “White Queen” has been, if “White Princess” follows the plot of the novel, expect even more deviations.

I will not go into the repetitions of the nickname “Kingmaker,” by or around Anne Neville. Nor will I harp on about Henry and Jasper being called “Tudor.” Let us compare the plot to the known history instead.

One of the biggest deviations from the timeline is the lack of time that has passed between the last episode and the restitution of Henry VI and the Battle of Barnet. I have joked to my friends that “Edward had a nice long weekend in Flanders,” because the passage of time has been cut so short. King Henry VI was restored to the throne on the 30th of October, 1470, but was not deposed until April of 1471, being on the throne for almost six months.

I do not know why the show places Elizabeth Woodville and her children in the crypt of Westminster. There was a physical building called The Sanctuary, and it was there that she, her daughters and her mother lived while she claimed sanctuary. According to luminarium.org, “The Sanctuary was a large square keep two stories high, with thick stone walls and only one exterior door, made of heavy oak. The building contained two chapels, and a few residential rooms. It was constructed to withstand an attack, and was quite the safest place to resort to, if one was in danger.” Not the same as a dirty, wet and open basement we are shown.

The Battle of Barnet was very different from the drama we are treated to. It was a full scale battle, with approximately 17,000 to 45,000 men on the field, not a squabble in a forest of birch trees. It is always very hard for historical drama to show a medieval battle as large as it was, because putting that many actors together is expensive, time consuming and distracting. It could be achieved with CGI, as it was done in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. However, most battles we see on the screen are a few hundred men.

The battle was entered before dawn, and the field was covered in fog when the sun came up. This caused great confusion. Warwick’s speech about staying to die with his men, killing his horse so that his troops knew he would not leave them, is pure fiction. The real Warwick was killed by York soldiers as he tried to climb onto his horse to flee the battle. Edward had ordered that Warwick be taken alive, but in the confusion he was killed. This means that the description given to Anne Neville by the Duke of Somerset in this episode is fiction as well.

We are not shown the Battle of Tewkesbury, but the actual battle was very brutal, leaving thousands dead on the field. Tewkesbury took place month after Barnet, with fewer men than Barnet. Edward’s army not only fought but chased and hunted down men as they tried to flee the battle. Soldiers drown trying to cross rivers to get away from the fighting. It was the actions taken by the Yorkists after the battle which were so harsh. We know that the nobles and knights of the Lancastrian army ran and sought sanctuary in Tewkesbury Abbey, but then sources diverge. One version of the story says that Edward pardoned the men hiding in the Abbey, and gave thanks at the alter for his victory. The darker version is that he had already begun slaughtering the Lancastrians when a priest intervened, holding up the Eucharist. We do know that the Abbey had to be re-consecrated, because so much blood had been spilled there. The leaders who came out of the Abbey had been promised pardons, but Edward changed his mind and they were later executed. Somerset was executed, as was Edward, the Lancastrian Prince of Wales.

Henry VI was captured at the end of the battle and taken back to the Tower of London as a prisoner. He was not left there “for safekeeping” by Warwick, as he is in the episode. Most sources say that he was killed with a blow to the back of his head, not by smothering with a pillow. The audience sees this though Elizabeth, who follows Edward form their bed to the Tower, though I doubt she was an actual witness to Henry’s death. She watches as Richard and George fiendishly hold Henry down and Edward holds the pillow over his face. Edward and George are not listed in sources as being in the Tower at the time of Henry’s death, though Richard of Gloucester was.  Distributing the blame for the execution of Henry VI between all three brothers may be another attempt to soften Richard, to keep him from looking like one of the antagonists.

This is not the first time smothering with pillows has been referenced by the show. Anyone who has read about the two “Princes in the Tower” knows that the official description given by Tyrell of their deaths says that they were smothered with pillows in their sleep. Nearly every episode of this show so far has had a reference to smothering in it. Smothering Henry VI makes it seem as though the smothering of the princes’ in the same way was an act of revenge.

Deposed kings could not be killed in any way that would leave marks on the body. Because they were anointed by God, only He could do away with them, so there could be no signs of physical injury. Richard II is believed to have been starved to death. Edward II was said to have fallen, but some sources say that a hot poker was thrust up into his bowels. There was not any mark on either of their bodies that would have shown after they were dressed for burial.

The episode does not show much of Margaret Beaufort, other than short scenes of her fighting with her husband, Henry Stafford. He shows his good nature by praying her for and giving her his blessing when she will not give him hers. Later we see Margaret go to Tenby to say goodbye to her son Henry and his uncle Jasper as they leave Wales to go into exile. We do not have any sources that place her there, but adding her to this scene gives it more emotion. Stafford dies when Margaret returns, begging her to stop trying to be “Margaret Regina.” As I have said in other posts, the R after her name which she used after 1485 may have stood for Richmond, not Regina, and there is no evidence of her trying to put Henry on the throne, let alone herself, before 1483.

Margaret and Anne are both widows. Edward is king again, and Henry VI and his son are dead. Jasper and Henry Tudor are gone. George of Clarence is restored in favor and is now the highest duke in the land. Elizabeth is queen once more. We will have to see where they go from here.

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The White Queen- Additional Info About Episode 4

WARNING: This contains spoilers.

My cable box shut down before the end of episode 4, and I thought that Henry Tudor being presented to King Henry VI was at the beginning of episode 5. When I turned on episode 5 to take my notes, imagine my surprise to see it in in the background scenes!

The story goes that Margaret Beaufort took Henry to meet his uncle, Henry VI. The old and slightly mentally unstable king looks at the boy and tells him that one day he will also be king, foreshadowing Henry VII’s rise in 1485. In my opinion, this story belongs with Margaret’s other prophetic stories, such as receiving a “vision” that she should marry Edmund, Earl of Richmond.

Henry VII’s true ascendance to the throne was through conquest. He was noble and royal, but his only blood link to the throne was through the Beaufort line- through Margaret- which had been barred from the succession. Henry’s grandmother, Katherine of Valois, was a queen of England but she was French; this did not give him a claim.

While there is no problem with being a conquering king (all British monarchs are descended through William the Conqueror, after all), there was an attempt to make his blood claim more legitimate, and these stories are part of that. To show that God was on his side, such stories were made up to prove that Henry was His choice. I take them with a grain of salt. Could Margaret have been divinely told to marry Edmund? I have less of a problem with that.

The tale of getting Henry VI’s blessing? I don’t believe so. Henry VI’s son, Edward Prince of Wales, was still alive. Not only was Edward the rightful heir, he was married to Anne Neville and could have produced an heir of his own. There is no reason to think that the king would doubt this, unless we are to assume that his mind is so addled that he doesn’t know what he is saying. Henry Tudor was his nephew, so seeing the king and receiving a general blessing might be expected. But to say that he would one day be a great king? There were still too many bodies to step over.

This story is fiction. A beautiful legend, but still a stretch of the truth.

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