Tag Archives: Wars of the Roses

Game of Thrones and English History

To mark the occasion of the season 4 premier of HBO’s Game of Thrones, I have decided to write down some of the general comparisons of the plot with English medieval society and history.

Game of Thrones is an awesome television show, based off of books written by George R. R. Martin, which my husband tells me are awesome (he has read them multiple times; I have not). The characters stir up emotion in the audience. You cry for the characters you like when they are killed and hate the evil characters with a fiery passion. With dragons, magic and living dead people the show is soundly in the realm of fantasy fiction. But there are hints of actual history alive in the show.

When the show opens, the first things we are treated to is the map of Westeros, a fictional country bordered on three sides with ocean and to the north with ice. The map itself is very similar to the map of the English Isle, if you remove the North, though Westeros seems to be much, much bigger. The Wall, where the men of the Night’s Watch protect the south from enemies coming down from the north, is similar to the boarder with Scotland, where for several hundred years skirmishes and battles broke out to keep the Scots from invading England, and vice-a-versa. London is located where King’s Landing is. The Isle of Mann is located where the Iron Islands are. Even the English Channel is similar to “The Narrow Sea,” and the cities where Daenerys Targaryen travels remind me of the different duchy’s of France, though the culture and language are more like the Middle East.

In Westeros each noble house is easily identified by their “sigil,” a badge worn on clothes or held as banners, which makes all the “bannermen” easily identifiable. They are easy to compare with both coats of arms and medieval banners. Even the sigil animals are similar to those used in Britain. England is a Lion, since the first Plantagenet king Henry II, while Scotland is a unicorn and Wales is Dragon. Edward IV used a sun, Richard III used a boar, Richard II was a stag. Stags, wolves, dragons, lions, and more animals are seen in Westeros. The “bannermen” are the lords who are sworn to uphold another lord’s cause in times of war, which is exactly what English nobles were expected to do throughout the medieval period.

While watching the show it is easy to see how the armor and fashion which are taking their cues from medieval England, as is the food, boats and litter carriages. The only character which wears clothing in a more modern style is Margaery Tyrell, as it is way too revealing and even Cersei Lannister complains about it showing too much skin. The citizens of Westeros have the same entertainments and work as medieval society, such as needlepoint, music and tournaments. They engage in warfare that is exactly like what was around during the medieval period, except without the “wild fire” that killed so many at the “Battle of the Blackwater.”

Most characters have a version of the English accent, some with an Irish or Scottish twang to it, and in the case of the beautiful, red-headed Wildling soldier Ygritte, my husband just informed me that my guess that she was using a Yorkshire accent was correct. Listening to the actual accents of the actors in interviews is enlightening, especially in regards to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays Jaime Lannister, because even though you hear no hint of it when he is acting, he is actually Dutch and talks with a strong Dutch accent when he is being himself. There are other accents of course, such as the German accent of Shay, Sansa Stark’s maid and Tyrion Lannister’s lover, as she is an immigrant to Westeros. Much like London, the highest variety of accents is in King’s Landing, because it’s a bastion of trade, immigration and class distinctions.

King Robert’s Rebellion mirrors the rebellion of Henry IV against Richard II, and the current warfare Westeros is going through is very similar to the Wars of the Roses. While Henry VI was not as unpopular, distanced and hated by the people as Joffrey, Rob Stark, the “King of the North,” is very similar to Edward IV, a younger man fighting because his father was killed (though in battle, not execution) and he believes he is the rightful king. Balon Greyjoy had called himself the “king of the Iron Islands,” and prior to 1485 the Stanley family had been the Kings of the Isle of Mann, with Thomas Stanley downgrading the honor to “Lord of Mann” so as not to offend his stepson, King Henry VII. In England there were fewer sides, but there were many battles and the interchanging of nobles, titles and the throne.

I am not sure how much of these similarities are intentional, but the more I start to ponder the more I find. Have you seen any that I have missed in this post? Please leave a comment and let me know!

If you haven’t seen Game of Thrones yet I urge you to give it a try. There is a reason it is so wildly popular, even though it’s a costumed drama that has no problem killing off its main characters and is heavy in both violence and sex. That’s because the plots, the characters, the sets, the special effects, the romance and the drama are unmatched. It airs on Sunday nights at 9pm EST, on HBO. If you can, watch it in HD because the costumes, sets and and visual textures can be missed in standard definition.

The show is based on a series of books, collectively known as “A Song of Ice and Fire,” written by George R. R. Martin. Five are currently available in bookstores, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance for Dragons. There are two more novels to still be written and released. The show is currently midway through the third book. We should be seeing several more seasons before we learn who will finally sit on the Iron Throne.

You can purchase the books on Amazon.

For more information, please check out A Wiki of Ice and Fire.

 

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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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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 marriages of Henry VII and Henry I, a Comparison

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King Henry I

 

It is no secret that I am obsessed with King Henry VII. I have a copy of one of his portraits up on the wall in my office. I collect books about him. I watched “The White Queen” in part because he was a character. My book is about his time in exile. This is a major obsession, and I believe that he was one of the best kings England has had.

But my affection does not mean that I am blind to the fact that he had a very weak blood claim to the throne, and therefore should be considered a “conquering” king instead of a dynastic one. His reign was good for the country; he was able to leave the throne to his son, Henry VIII, with a fortune saved in the royal treasury due primarily to proper management and cutting out of waste.

Henry’s marriage to Elizabeth of York was very important for the stability of the realm. With her two brothers, the “Princes in the Tower,” gone and presumed dead, Elizabeth was the heir to her father, Edward IV. Because Henry and Elizabeth’s children would have the blood of both sides, Lancaster and York, the country would unite under them. The “Tudor Rose” children were one of the motivations behind their political union, though the marriage grew into love over the years. This was not the first time a king married a queen to make the claim of his children stronger.

In 1100 Henry I married Edith, a Scottish princess, and she changed her name to Matilda to sound more “Norman.” Henry came to the throne of England under questionable circumstances. A younger son of William I, or “The Conqueror,” he had been out hunting with his older brother, King William II, or “Rufus” as he was called, when Rufus suddenly died. We do not know if Rufus was murdered or if his death was an accident, but Henry rode straight to Westminster to be crowned king as soon as Rufus was dead. Henry was not his brother’s heir; their brother Robert, the Duke of Normandy, was Rufus’ heir. Later, Henry and Robert would go to war against each other, but for now Robert let Henry be king of England.

Henry was the son of a conquering king, and had taken the throne when it wasn’t his. How could he make sure that his heir would be secure on the throne when he died? By giving his children a blood connection to the old Saxon kings, his children would be secure. This was why he married Edith/Matilda. She was the daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland, and was the descendant of King Ethelred II of England. Their children would become the unity of Saxon and Norman blood. The whole country would unite under them, and they would be secure and powerful.

This is the exact same logic that Henry VII used when he married Elizabeth of York, and they had their “Tudor Rose” children. When Henry VII died in 1509, he left his throne to his son, Henry VIII. His daughter Margaret was the queen of Scotland, and his daughter Mary was the queen of France for a short period, before marrying her love, Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk.

Henry I’s story was sadder. Only one of his children outlived him, his daughter Matilda. She had been married to Henry V, the German Emperor, which is why she is called “Empress Matilda.” Henry’s male next of kin was now his nephew Stephan, but because Stephan did not have the Saxon blood that Matilda did, Henry did not want Stephan to be his heir. When Henry lay dying, he had the English barons promise their support to Matilda, that she would be the next ruler of England. They did not live up to their promises, and Stephan was crowned king. He and Matilda entered into battle against each other, sieging castles and taking the other as prisoner but then releasing them. This game of cat and mouse continued for years, until they made an agreement. Matilda would accept Stephan as the king if he agreed to have her son from her second marriage as his heir. Matilda’s son became Henry II, the first Plantagenet king and he became one of the best kings that England has had. His sons are another story…

Of course, the Tudors would be plagued by Henry VIII’s tumultuous person life and struggle to produce a healthy and legitimate male heir. The dynasty ended after 118 years, when Queen Elizabeth I passed away in 1603. But the descendants of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York continue to sit on the throne to this day, and they have many, many other non-royal descendants as well.

This is why I can compare the two marriages to each other, and they are a valid comparison. Both married their spouse to give credibility to their reign and to make the reigns of their children smoother than their own had been. They knew that by having children that had both blood lines in them, there could be no question of their legitimacy and security on the throne.

Can you think of any other royal marriages that compare? Let me know what you think!

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The Origin of the Wars of the Roses

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Henry IV

 

When did the Wars of the Roses start?

Now that “The White Queen” has ended, there are many viewers who would like to learn more of the history of the period. Historians typically have two distinct points which they say were the beginning of the Wars of the Roses. The first is in the usurpation of Richard II’s throne by Henry IV, and the second was when Richard, Duke of York, rose up against Henry VI. This post explains how the events of 1399 set up 1455.

By removing his cousin, King Richard II, and taking his throne, Henry IV creates a precedent that a king may be removed if he is unpopular or not seen to be fit to rule. The usurpation was a sad end to Richard II, a boy who turned into a tyrant. He was the son of Edward, the “Black Prince,” and his wife Joan, “The Maid,” of Kent, and grandson of Edward III. His reign was seen as a new beginning, a fresh start for a monarchy that be been deteriorating under an elderly king. Richard was a boy-king, and the issue of his minority came to a head with the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Those rebels swore that they loved Richard, and that they only wanted to serve him and help to protect him from “evil counsel.” They turned most of their anger and violence against Richard’s uncle John of Gaunt, father of Henry IV, because he seemed to have too much personal power. The rebels’ path of destruction landed at John’s castle The Savoy, which was burned to the ground.

At first it seemed as though Richard was listening to the rebels, but the end of the revolt was cemented into history with one sentence: “Serfs ye are, and serfs ye shall remain!” which the boy-king allegedly yelled at the rebels. The promises he had made to them, namely their freedom from serfdom, proved to be fraudulent, and the opinion of the people turned against Richard. Ironically it was John of Gaunt, the focus of the rebels’ enmity, who proved to be one of Richard’s most true advisors and supporters. Despite having the wealth and manpower to steal the throne from Richard, John never seems to have actually contemplated it. This may have been because John of was too busy attempting to gain the throne of Castile to try to take England from a nephew he had sworn to protect. John seems to have taken his promise of loyalty to Richard very seriously. John was a fascinating person, who will forever be attached in our minds as the romantic man from Anya Seton’s Katherine. That novel also gives us a wonderful depiction of the Peasants’ Revolt. John turned out not to be a threat to Richard; John’s oldest son Henry proved to be the real threat.

Henry of Bolingbroke was the son and heir of John of Gaunt, the third surviving son of King Edward III, from John’s first wife, Blanche of Lancaster. She was the wealthy daughter of Henry, the first Duke of Lancaster. His titles, wealth and property passed to John, as Henry of Lancaster had no male heir. John owned more castles and land, and was wealthier, than the king. He also had a larger number of retainers, or private soldiers than the king. Henry was named for this grandfather, who was the grandson of Edmund Crouchback, and great-grandson of King Henry III. This made Henry of Bolingbroke of royal descent from both of his parents, which he later used as evidence that he should be king. Richard was of royal descent from both of his parents as well, since his mother, Joan, was the daughter of Edmund of Woodstock, a son of King Edward I. Henry would later say that his ancestor, Edmund Crouchback, was the true heir but had been overlooked in favor of Edward I, but there is no actual proof to this story, which may have just been an attempt to legitimate his claim after he deposed Richard.

In 1398, following a dispute with the first Duke of Norfolk Thomas Mowbray, Richard sent Henry into exile. Showing how supportive John was to the king, he agreed with the punishment of his son and heir. John died the following yea, but Richard blocked Henry from gaining his inheritance. This was the fuel that prompted Henry to invade England, presumably to gain his lands and titles, but once there he imprisoned Richard, and had himself crowned King Henry IV on October 13, 1399. Richard was imprisoned in Pontefract Castle, where he died, possibly from starvation. Richard’s jailor was Henry’s step-brother and companion Thomas Swynford, son of John of Gaunt’s third wife and former mistress Katherine Swynford, by her first husband, Sir Hugh.

This single action made the position of king unstable. This was an expansion of the same reasoning used to depose Edward II, who was unpopular and not a very good king, but it is not identical. In that case, the throne passed to his son, Edward III, when he abdicated. But Edward III would have inherited the throne eventually anyway, just not as soon. He also wasn’t fighting to gain the throne for himself. His mother, Isabella “The She-Wolf” of France and her lover, Roger Mortimer, deposed Edward II on his behalf. Richard II had no children, so the question of who his heir would be followed his abdication. Technically, Richard’s heir was Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March, who was a descendent of Edward III’s second son Lionel, Duke of Clarence, through his daughter Philippa. This descent becomes questionable, as Mortimer was descended through a female line, while Henry was descended from a male line.

The rules of English succession have not been as clear and a woman could be an heir, though I do not personally believe that at the time this would have been accepted. Because she was not male, the nobles would have rather seen a man with less of a claim get the throne. This has been much debated, because if we follow a male-from-male line from Edward III, Henry IV would have been Richard II’s heir. If we allow for female descent, then Edmund Mortimer was his heir and Henry IV usurped two crowns instead of one. And yes, the Earl of March was a descendent of Roger Mortimer, lover of Isabella of France.

Richard could have still had children, since there was no way to know if he had been infertile. If he had a son, Henry of Bolingbroke would have been further from the crown. Edward III would have always been his father’s heir, unless he predeceased him. The comparison is still valid, but messy.

This should serve as a warning to us today. Precedent can become a nightmare. The roots of the Wars of the Roses come from the centuries before, repeated in the 15th Century. Taking a cue from the mistakes of the past, we can make mistakes in the future.

Further reading:

Spartacus Educational- “Punishment of the Peasants”

Luminarium- “King Henry IV”

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The White Queen- Episode 10, The Finale- Part Two

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The cast of “The White Queen,” as themselves.

 

…A continuation of White Queen Episode 10- Part One

The show’s version of the Battle of Bosworth Field has several inaccuracies in it. In the show it takes place in a forest, though quite clearly by definition it was at Bosworth Field.  The snow on the ground and the bare trees makes it look like the episode was filmed in winter. The actual Battle of Bosworth was on August 22, and there is no snow mentioned in any reports. We are shown a battle that was very small, at most two dozen men fighting, and that Henry had little support from any Englishman or Welshman. The actual estimates from the battle total almost 20,000 men, divided roughly into 5,000 for Henry, 10,000 for Richard, and about 5,000 with Thomas and William Stanley.

When Richard says that he will wear his battle crown so that “Tudor can find me,” it’s clear that they have removed the standard bearers. Bearers were important in a battle since they stood next to the king and kept his standard up so that the men knew he was alright. It was a position of great honor, and it was very dangerous. If you handled the standard you could not wield weapons. The advancement of Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, is due to his father, William Brandon, having died at Bosworth holding Henry VII’s standard, possibly cut down by Richard himself. Charles was a toddler at the time, and the king took responsibility for his upbringing as a thank-you to his father’s sacrifice.

John Howard, the 1st Duke of Norfolk has been removed as well, and his void seems to be filled by Sir Robert Brackenbury, who also died at Bosworth. After the betrayal of Buckingham, Norfolk was one of Richard’s few remaining friends, and had been raised in the peerage by the king. His death at Bosworth is considered one of the turning points to Tudor. He was the great-grandfather of both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

There is debate about the location of the two Stanley armies, but the show has deleted William Stanley entirely, even though he has been referenced in dialog. The Stanley brothers were pivotal to the outcome of the battle due to the size of their armies, but nearly sat at the sides for the entire time. The actual events, as best we know from accounts, are as follows:

The battle started with Henry shooting his cannons. Richard and Henry sat towards the back of both sides, as the lords took out their regimens. Richard sees that Norfolk goes down, and begins what some historians have called a “suicide run” toward Henry. He makes it far enough to possibly kill Brandon, and Henry’s standard begins to slip. When William Stanley sees it start to go down, he starts his charge on the side of Henry. Seeing his brother go to battle, Thomas Stanley orders his charge. Richard is taken out by unknown soldiers. The battle is over, and Henry is the victor.

There is a very pretty myth that Thomas Stanley sees Richard’s battle crown on a bush, picks it up and places it on Henry’s head. Then the whole field kneels to their new king. There is no contemporary evidence of the origin of this story, but it does create a striking picture.

The fate of Richard’s body has been in the news recently, after his skeleton was discovered buried under a parking lot in Leicester. After Bosworth, Richard’s corpse was found on the field and Henry ordered that he be given a proper, Christian burial. That’s not what happened. Instead it was stripped, slung over the back of his horse (which is said to have been “limping”), and paraded around the county before being dumped into a grave in Grey Friars’ church yard. Why was he treated so badly? The stories about how he was such a great and loved king, that the hatred of him is all propaganda, is not true either. Remember the execution of Lord Hastings? It is one of the most important moments in Richard’s reign, because with that one action, the lords turned on him. They didn’t trust him, which is a separate issue than the disgust they felt if they believed that he was the one that ordered the deaths of his nephews. This enmity ran deep, so when the lords were left to deal with Richard’s burial, they wanted to disrespect him as much as they could. On a political level, showing the people his corpse ensured that nobody would claim to either be him or to rise up in his name.

This of course brings us to the show’s battle aftermath, when Margaret Beaufort comes out and orders that everyone stay on their knees, since she was now “Margaret Regina.” The insistence that everyone must bow to her, as a queen, is nonsense. Her official title at court was the Countess of Richmond and Derby (after Thomas Stanley became the Earl of Derby), and Henry bestowed on her the title “Our Lady, the King’s Mother.” She signed documents as “Margaret R”, but that may have stood for Richmond. She was an influential person at court, but while Elizabeth Woodville was there, she deferred to her, following her in processions and giving her precedence at events. She was not a monarch. After Elizabeth of York died, Margaret took over some of her duties, which should have been temporary. Once Henry remarried those duties would have been taken over by the new queen, but he didn’t marry again, so Margaret continued with them until 1509.

After the battle Henry became King Henry VII, dating his reign from the 21st of August, so that he was the monarch on the field, not Richard. He married Elizabeth of York, and the marriage grew to be one of love and support. They had four children who lived to adulthood, though the eldest, Arthur, died when he was 15. Elizabeth died almost a year later, and Henry never got over the loss. He was known for his business sense and for his thriftiness, and left his son, Henry VIII, a fortune. Henry’s reign became the age of the “Tudors,” who reigned for 118 years, and gave us two of the most well-known monarchs in English history- Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. He is the ancestor of the current royal house, through his daughter Margaret and the Stuarts. Not bad for a man who spent 14 years in exile, never knowing if he would return home or get his title and lands back!

Starz has bought the option for creating another miniseries based on Gregory’s book The White Princess. I do not know when the production will begin on it, but I look forward to seeing how that stands up to the history!

Further reading:

The Tudor Tattler- “The Tudor Tart: Elizabeth of York”

CNN- “New mystery at Richard III burial site: a coffin inside a coffin”

The Creation of Anne Boleyn- “Is Elizabeth Woodville Philippa Gregory’s Apology to Anne Boleyn?”

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