Tag Archives: Henry VII

The Tudors: Season One, Episode Two

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

There is a lot going on in this episode, which covers the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the arrest and execution of the Duke of Buckingham, the birth of Henry Fitzroy, and the affair between Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn. I am going to focus on a few points there were either accurate or inaccurate about this episode.

I became very distracted at the Field of the Cloth of Gold by the actions of Charles Brandon. This event happened at Calais in June of 1520. I will go more into the difference between the historical Brandon and the fictional one in future episodes, but at this time he was not some roaming stud looking for French women. Why not? Because he was married to Henry’s sister, Mary, in 1515, and she didn’t die until 1533. I went into this in the first post, but for me it was just hard to move past while I was watching.

While in France, King Francis I points out Mary Boleyn to Henry, and calls her his “English Mare,” because he “rides her so often.” Henry becomes jealous that a member of his court is sleeping with Francis, and sends for her himself, beginning an affair with her. Mary may have been Francis’ mistress, but she did not become Henry’s mistress at Calais. She had returned to England in 1519, when she was married to William Carey, and was in the household of Queen Katherine. We don’t know when she became Henry’s mistress, but estimates have their affair starting in 1521, after the summit. Later in the episode, Henry tosses her away seemingly out of nowhere- “leave.” In reality their affair ended sometime between 1524 and 1526, though since it was never publicized we do not know the exact date. We do know that it was longer than a few months. We know there was a relationship because when Henry petitioned the pope for a dispensation to marry Anne Boleyn in 1527, the reason that was given as to why a dispensation was needed was Henry’s familial knowledge of her sister. And we all know how that turned out…

When they all return to England, Henry is furious because Charles V of Spain has been named the Holy Roman Emporer. This is out of the timeline. In reality Charles was made Emporer in 1519, a year before the summit.

As well, when they return to England Bessie Blount gives birth to Henry Fitzroy, the king’s bastard son. This is juxtaposed against the treason of Buckingham, as the noblemen are giving Henry his Christmas gifts when she is in labor. The real Fitzroy was born in June of 1519, a year prior to the summit in Calais. In comparison, the Duke of Buckingham was executed in 1521, which is shown later in the show, and seems to be in the correct time.

One of the biggest errors that drives me nuts is the interaction between Charles Brandon and Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, when Brandon presents him with his father’s ring and makes a vague threat against him and his son’s futures if he fails to give the verdict of guilty against Buckingham. Norfolk says that his father was executed by Henry VII. There were two Thomas Howards that were the Dukes of Norfolk, the 2nd and the 3rd Dukes, father and son. Because Anne Boleyn later calls him “Uncle,” this makes him the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. It was the 2nd Duke who presided over Buckingham’s trial, and it was the last thing he did before retiring from court.

So here are the actual facts- The 1st Duke of Norfolk, John Howard, died at Bosworth in 1485. It was his death that may have pushed Richard III into his “suicide run.” His son, the 2nd Duke, was restored to the peerage by Henry VII, and died in 1524. This was Anne Boleyn’s grandfather, the father of her mother. The 3rd Duke was Thomas Howard, Anne Boleyn’s uncle, who was active in court before and after she was queen. He was also a Catholic, who put his other niece, Catherine Howard, forward as Henry’s future mistress and queen. Henry VII did not execute any of the Dukes of Norfolk, and it was not Anne Boleyn’s uncle who presided over the trial of the Duke of Buckingham. Therefore, this entire interaction makes no sense. There seems to be an inability of TV shows to put forward the line of the Duke of Norfolk accurately. The 1st Duke was left out of “The White Queen,” and in the “Six Wives of Henry VIII” he inaccurately states that his father was executed by Henry VII as well. I do not know if this is because the 2nd and 3rd were both named Thomas, or if the Howards are just disliked, but these little changes do not make any sense to me.

I am not sure which pope is supposed to be shown dying in this episode, because none died in 1521. The pope at that time was Leo X, Giovanni de Medici, who reigned from 1513 to 1523. When the cardinals speak of how the next pope must be an Italian, it confuses the issue further, because the following pope, Adrian VI, was Dutch.

One of the best moments in this episode happens in two parts. It starts with Cardinal Wolsey telling Sir Thomas More about how he will have to give up what he treasures most to keep the love of a king. It culminates at the end of the episode when Wolsey and Henry are approaching Wolsey’s new palace and Henry pushes the cardinal to give it to him. Clearly it was what Wolsey treasured, and to keep the king’s affections he had to give it away.

There was a lot to comment on in this episode, so I had to explain the parts that bothered and impressed me the most. Was there something that bothered you, that I failed to mention? Please leave a note in the comments!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under The Tudors

Could Roland de Veleville’s Death Have Influenced the Execution of Anne Boleyn?

Anne Boleyn was executed on May 19, 1326. That she was executed at all is one of the reasons we remember her and King Henry VIII so well. Before this, unwanted queens had been sent away or forced to go into nunneries, as evidenced by Louis XI of France’s first wife, Joan, and Henry’s own attempts to divorce Katherine of Aragon by sending her away. The change in personality and behavior that Henry exhibited just prior to and after Anne’s execution have become a very hotly debated topic- was he justified because she was cheating on him? Did the fall from his horse damage his brain and cause his changes? What sparked such a venomous hatred?

I have one idea which may not have been thought of before. Roland de Veleville died the year prior, in June of 1535, as evidenced by his replacement as Constable of Beaumaris Castle with Sir Henry Norris, a man executed as one of Anne Boleyn’s lovers.

Even if we ignore the evidence that Roland was Henry’s illegitimate older brother, he was a man who had considerable influence on the king. His words were enough of a threat to Henry’s counselors that he was sent to Fleet for speaking against them. He was often in the personal presence of the king, despite his “criminal” mouth. He had an unparalleled and hard to understand connection with Henry.

That connection started in Henry’s childhood, as Roland lived in the royal apartments and was a dominant figure in Henry VII’s personal life. He personally attended on Henry VIII, and was part of his entourage at some of the most important points of the young king’s life, including the Battle of the Spurs and the Field of Cloth of Gold. He mourned the loss of infant Prince Henry with the royal house. Even though he had been sent to Wales in 1509 (which I have my own theory about), he was never far from the king’s mind, and was consistently called back to court.

His influence on Henry VIII cannot be understated. Even though we have no information on it, I cannot believe that Henry took Roland’s death lightly. If we re-insert their family connection, his death becomes even more of a tragedy for the king. Roland was his last living brother, and since his sister Margaret was in Scotland and his sister Mary had died in 1533, Roland was his last sibling at court.

Roland’s opinion of Anne Boleyn and Henry’s denouncement of the Catholic Church are not known. Having spent so much time in the company of Henry VII could have made him a Catholic supporter, and since he had known Katherine of Aragon since she arrived in England he must have had a good relationship with her. But he does not seem to have been a conservative man, having lived with his wife prior to marriage and was known to be a gambler and drinker. Having no son of his own, he may have understood Henry’s drive to marry Anne and further their family. Or he may have not supported Henry’s turn from the Pope and casting aside of Katherine, and it may have contributed to his infrequent trips to court before his death. In either case, his opinion and counsel may have been valued by the king, even if it wasn’t in support for his actions.

With Roland’s death, Henry was very much alone. While we see Roland as a fun-loving and hot-tempered jouster, perhaps Henry’s older brother was a stabilizing influence on his life. Roland spent more time with Henry VII in a much more familiar way than Henry did, and perhaps he learned more of that style of governance from him, which he passed along to Henry. Henry called Roland to his side often, and especially at times where he was in need of counsel. Then Roland died. This must have been a shock to Henry’s stability.

Most of this is speculative, but based on information we do know. If Roland was a treasured counselor who Henry relied upon, his death may have sent Henry into an emotional and moral tailspin. Not only did he no longer have the advice or opinion of his brother, he no longer had anyone to be held accountable to. Roland may have been the last tie to Henry VII, and advice similar to what their father would have given. What would his brother have said if he had executed Anne while he was still alive? Would he have told the king to send her away, and been disgusted at the idea of killing her? Would she have been treated differently?

We may never know the real reason Henry turned so suddenly and violently against his wife, but this new idea may give a little more insight into the mind of the king who killed the woman he worked so hard to have.

Leave a comment

Filed under General History

Modern Politicians can Learn from Henry VII

This post is different than my normal posts, because I am going to talk about politics a bit. It is hard to watch what is happening in the American government and not think about how far from the law we are, and how much more freedom the English people had under a king than we Americans do now.

In the minds of most Americans the British monarchy is synonymous with King George III. We hear the title “king” and our gut reacts like George Washington’s- “It will be Mr. President.” We think our government of “for the people, by the people,” this quasi-democracy, is the best it can ever get. And why not? A little less than half of the population gets their way and we’re supposed to all be happy.

The modern politician is an amalgamation of a fast-talking snake oil salesmen and a mini-tyrant. We’ve heard Former-Mayor Bloomberg telling us that he knows what we should eat and drink and will force us to comply. We’ve heard President Obama brag about being able to write laws unilaterally because he has “a phone and a pen.” This is all acceptable to them because under their logic the people voted for them, so any action they undertake is what the people want, or at least what they signed on for, by electing that politician. And, the logic follows, if we don’t like the policies or laws that one administration creates, once their term is up we can get in a new person to undo the damage. Let’s be clear: The damage is never undone and with each consecutive bad politician the policies get worse and the law oversteps into individual rights.

The US Constitution was based on a mix of the Magna Carta and the ideas of liberty that came from the Enlightenment. A major grievance of the colonies was that parliament and the king were ignoring the rules of law set forth in the Magna Carta, saying that it only gave protections to the people who lived in the British Isle, not to the citizens in the colonies. When the war was won and the US had to make its own laws, they took a great deal of direction from the Magna Carta itself. It was there that limits on taxation were first penned. It was there that personal protection from the government originated. It was there that due process under the law became standard. This comes back to the difference between a Limited Monarchy verses an Absolute Monarchy and how that difference effects the lives of the citizens of a country. France was an Absolute Monarchy and its people starved. England was a Limited Monarchy and its people thrived and grew wealthy. The Magna Carta, and the Constitution, both limited the powers and rights of the government, not of the people. A king is the personal embodiment of a government, and though not elected still has to keep the needs of the people in his focus or lose their support.

My plea for politicians to act more like Henry VII.

No, Henry was not a greedy miser who taxed the common people nearly to death. It was not possible for a king to enact taxes that were not approved of by parliament, and Henry was not in a solid position with parliament. There were still Yorkists who wanted him gone and dead, and other nobles who wanted to take the throne. Without parliament’s approval a king could not collect taxes, and the taxes that they approved had to fulfill very strict criteria. Unlike our modern system of taxes, taxation under the Magna Carta had to be for a specific purpose- a war or building project for example- and had to have a specific start and stop date. Taxes could not just give the monarch more money to spend however he wished, and could not be open-ended. Henry VII could not get around those rules, not even to attack France, the normal enemy of the English. When he asked for the taxes to do so parliament refused. And he had no choice but to work with them or give up. He couldn’t just say that all Englishmen must give him this much money every year indefinitely.

So how did Henry get such a full treasury, if he couldn’t tax the people in such a way? He was a shrewd businessman who invested his private money to support trade, which increased the amount of tariffs the crown received from such trade. He also managed the royal lands better than his predecessors, taking a personal interest in the management and cutting out waste. At the end of his reign the royal lands had produced 10,000-pounds under Edward IV, compared with 42,000-pounds per annum.

There was an increase in business due to the increase in security Henry VII fostered. He reigned in relative peace, while Richard III, Edward IV and Henry VI all reigned under violent civil war. This peace created a safer situation on the roads and on trade routes. As well, Henry VII extended the crown’s justice in the realm, so that disputes could be resolved quickly and fairly in his name. Security for the people breeds more income for the government.

“But wait!” I can hear you say. “He made lots of money by creating laws which forced noblemen to pay fines for keeping standing armies and made them bond each other, so he could get rich!” It may be a surprise to hear, but Henry VII did not create those laws, nor did he enact them often. The laws against Retaining and for supplying “Recognizances” were on the books prior to Henry’s reign and were used by both Edward IV and Henry VI. The laws against retaining had to do with noblemen paying for and keeping standing armies in times of peace. In war time every noblemen must bring an army to the field or else pay for it later, but in peace time they could not keep that army to fight among themselves with other nobles or be threatening the king. Under Henry VI and Edward IV it was illegal to do so, but with the constant warfare it wasn’t as enforced as it should have been.

“Recognizances” were a different system. One nobleman was found to be a “risk” to the crown and country, so one of his noble friends would promise to pay a sum of money to the crown if the first nobleman was found to be guilty of treason. If his friend turned on the king in rebellion the nobleman would have to pay the crown for the offense. In a time of warfare this system could have provided a nice income for the crown while giving the nobles a reason not to commit treason. But just as the laws against retaining were rarely enforced, prior to 1485 “recognizances” were rarely used as well.

It is true that Henry used them more, but he did not fill his coffers with these fines, taking an income from them that was only slightly higher than Edward IV’s. Because he was still very precarious on the throne, Henry preferred to have the noblemen feel indebted to him. When a nobleman was found guilty of breaking these laws the penalty would be levied by the courts and was expected to be handed over to the crown. But Henry forgave more of these offenses than he collected on, preferring to seem generous and forgiving and to give the noblemen an example of fair treatment. By forgiving the debts Henry made the noblemen thankful to him for their continued prosperity, and more likely to defend him if rebellion did stir up. He appeared to be merciful and gracious in his actions, and gained more support for his seat on the throne.

Henry VII knew that you catch more flies with honey. By taking actions to keep money in circulation and increasing trade with investment and peace in his realm, Henry gained more revenue than he could have if he had been allowed to increase taxation with a heavy fist. His time as a “beggar earl” in exile made him thrifty and never wanted to be at the mercy of others’ monetary support again. He made the mechanics of government more efficient and cut waste, and knew how to encourage the country to make money for themselves, which in turn made money for him in legal and fair ways.

This is something that is lost on our modern government, who believe that increasing fines and taxes will increase their own funds. It won’t. Instead of cutting waste and operating at a minimum expense they continue to pay for and encourage waste. We focus on things like the fact that some people make very large sums of money while others do not, instead of focusing on how high the standard of living is for even the very poor. The politicians promise to make income equal, instead of focusing on what we already have and how blessed we are. Our lives today are better than Henry VII’s- heat, AC, plumbing, TV.

Judge John Fortescue knew that a limited government made the people wealthy and happy, and that absolute government strangled the people, keeping them poor and miserable. Somehow this message has been ignored. And only by returning to it can we continue to have the freedom and standard of living that made this country a destination for the “troubled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Resource:

Grant, Alexander. “Henry VII.” Lancaster Pamphlet. 1985. Routledge: London & New York.

3 Comments

Filed under General History

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

Leave a comment

Filed under The Tudors

Henry Tudor, a Proud Welshman

I gotta say, I like the way Nathen thinks!

Nathen Amin

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…

View original post 3,480 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under The Best of Other Blogs

Roland de Veleville’s Marriage

Someone asked me about Roland de Veleville’s marriage, because as far as we know he did not receive a papal dispensation to marry his wife, Agnes Griffith. They pointed to her Stanley ancestor as a blood link to the English throne, saying that the failure to receive a dispensation means that de Veleville could not have been the son of Henry VII. There are several problems with this argument.

I am unsure of who Janet de Stanley, Griffith’s grandmother, was. My documents have Janet de Stanley being born in Cheshire, England in about 1400. Alternately I have the Stanley’s going back until 1405, at which point my records diverge to the family of Joan Goushill, the wife of Thomas Stanley, the 1st Baron Stanley. Her family was the FitzAlans, who were descended from Henry III giving a blood-link to the throne. However, these dates do not add up to Janet being part of that line, as she and Thomas are about the same age. The Stanleys were the kings of the Isle of Mann, a title which was downgraded to “Lord of the Isle of Mann” when the 1st Earl of Derby’s stepson became Henry VII.  Going back further into the Stanley family there is no blood connection to the English throne in the generations I was able to research.

One clue as to why this blood link is questionable comes from the marriage of Thomas Stanley, the 1st Earl of Derby, and Margaret Beaufort, “Our Lady, the King’s Mother.” As far as my research shows there was no dispensation for this marriage. If the grandmother could marry a Stanley without dispensation, why would the grandson need one to marry the granddaughter of a Stanley?

This theory is also based on de Veleville thinking of himself as a prince, which it does not appear he ever did. De Veleville never rose above the rank of knight, and even though he earned the second-highest income in North Wales he was still never of the nobility. Papal dispensations were very. They were given to princes, and only very, very rarely given to knights. I don’t doubt that he could have obtained one, since he was so close with Henry VIII, but he may not have felt he needed one.

There is also the question of the date of their wedding. We know that Agnes Griffith was living at Beaumaris Castle before they were married, because she is referred to as de Veleville’s “concubine” in documents. Their marriage may not have taken place until after she had become pregnant, and as such they may not have cared about a dispensation, if one had been needed. She was a widow, but did not have any children from her first marriage. The date of birth given for their daughter, Jane de Veleville, is between 1510 and 1514. Their wedding may not have taken place until after Jane’s birth, or very close to it.

The first marriage of Katherine Tudor of Berain is more questionable than that of her grandparents. Her first husband, John Salisbury, was a closer cousin to her, as his great-grandmother was Janet Griffith, the sister of Agnes. This marriage took place in 1556, after the Reformation, and because of the break with Rome there was no need for a dispensation.

There may have been a dispensation for Roland de Veleville and Agnes Griffith that was lost to time, but I doubt it. I also doubt that they would have needed one. Yes there was a Stanley ancestor, but it was so far removed that it may have been deemed unnecessary. Likewise, the Griffiths being an old branch of the “Tudors” was so far removed by that point that it may have been not regarded as damaging. De Veleville may have not considered himself high enough in rank to need a dispensation, and as Agnes was already pregnant, he may have not thought it mattered.

The life of their daughter Grace is unknown, and she may have died in childhood, but their daughter Jane did very well for herself, marrying Tudor ap Robert ap Vychan, a man of great wealth and standing. Their only surviving child, Katherine, went on to four marriages, scores of children and grandchildren, and the nickname “Mam Cymru”- “Mother of Wales.” Her sons from her first marriage earned two very different places in history. The oldest, Thomas, was involved in the Babington Plot and was executed. The younger, John, married Ursula Stanley, and was a body servant to Queen Elizabeth I. He was a poet, and a friend/patron to William Shakespeare.

If you have any other information about Margaret Beaufort’s marriage to Thomas Stanley, the Stanley family, or papal dispensations in general, please leave it in the comment section.

Image

A close-up of a portrait of Katherine Tudor of Berain. I wonder if she looked like her grandparents or mother?

Leave a comment

Filed under Historical Fiction Book Reviews

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.

2 Comments

Filed under General History