Tag Archives: William Hastings

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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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 1, Part 1

Please note that this contains spoilers. Because of the length of the total post, I have divided it into 2 parts for ease of reading.

The one thing I enjoy from this miniseries completely is the music. As a classical violinist, the theme is lovely. The intro was well done, with visual interest and a focus on the roses, both red and white. The acting is very good, and the actors are a good-looking bunch. I know there have been many blogs which focus on the inaccuracies in the sets and the costuming, pointing out zippers and rubber-soled shoes, and railings and glass panes. On the whole for me, just as with so many other programs, the sets are beautiful and the whole program is very visually beautiful, with lush green woods and sparkling water.

I first watched the BBC version of this episode twice on YouTube, prior to the beginning of the series on Starz. The copy was removed from YouTube about a week after I first watched it, for copyright violations. It has been the only episode that I have been able to watch as the BBC aired it, with limited nudity, though the additions of the bare breasts and male backside do not change the story. I have wondered why Starz demanded the changes, unless the publicity those changes garnered were the reason.

This episode is an attempt to explain to the audience how and why Elizabeth Woodville (otherwise spelled Wydville) became the Queen of England. It does not explain the causes behind the Wars of the Roses, other than a bit about Henry VI’s madness. We are quickly thrown into the world of the young widow who is trying to retain her lands from her former mother-in-law. This problem is not explained very clearly, though she repeatedly says how her lands have been taken away from her and her sons, but not by whom or why. Her father, Richard, at one point growles that she didn’t lose her lands, “they were TAKEN from her.” In my opinion, this is her primary reason for standing under a tree waiting for the new king Edward, not sleeping with him or becoming his wife.  As it is impossible to ever know what happens in someone’s head, this of course is up for argument. Philippa Gregory has taken the opposite view in her other books that Elizabeth was standing there to “capture” Edward. Her sons would be a testament to her fertility (“Look! I have already made boys!”), and the morning sun would put a flattering light on her beauty, the better to snare the young and randy king. The details are not known, but what we can say we know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that Elizabeth attracted Edward, and changed the monarchy for good.

The very first thing we are treated to in the episode is Elizabeth’s nightmare, reliving the last moments of her dead husband. Right away, I took issue with this. While Elizabeth’s mother, Jacquetta, held the title of Dowager Duchess and she would end up being the ancestor of the current monarchs, Elizabeth’s first husband was not a high-ranking peer. Sir John Grey was a Baron, the lowest on the pecking order of nobles, and his title was held by his mother. We do not know the exact way in which he died in 1461 at the second Battle of St. Albans, but it is fairly safe to bet that he was not chased away from the battle and beheaded by the king. Why? Because he was not worthy of royal concern. There were far more important people to locate and kill other than a country Baron. There were dukes and earls demanding his attention, especially the Earl of Pembroke, Jasper Tudor, half-brother to Henry VI. Pembroke was a very real threat because of the execution of his father, Owen Tudor (name explanation later in post), after the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross. Finding him would have been a top priority, and one that was not successful. There were other, lower ranking men who would hunt down Grey if he was fleeing, and Edward would be too busy to personally hunt for him. If he had been captured, being just a Baron he would have been held and ransomed instead of executed. There is a difference between Edward’s wrath this early in the Wars, and the bloodiness of later battles, such as Tewkesbury.

This dream is the beginning of a plot that is both in the show and in the books, that Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth of York were all witches. That makes for some great entertainment, watching them cast spells and bring up storms, but of course it is completely baseless. Gregory says that she discovered the story that Jacquetta comes from a line of women descended from the water goddess Melusina, and that of course they would have all be highly aware of it in her family. In her books Gregory has Jacquetta being married to her first husband John, the brother of King Henry V and the Duke of Bedford, because he wanted her to use her magic to assist in keeping France under English control (this is the first part of the plot of her book, The Lady of the Rivers). There is no evidence of this, and Gregory takes that to mean that it was deliberately kept secret, or anything that would have shown this was destroyed deliberately. When Jacquetta was charged as a witch, she was released and cleared, meaning that the charge was baseless. Other women, even of the noble class had been charged and found guilty, so there is no reason to think that she was practicing and someone the evidence wasn’t found. Of course this is not historical proof, and the absence of evidence does not constitute proof. Gregory has discussed this in several interviews, and in “The Real White Queen.”

I am much troubled by the removal of Sir William Hastings from the characters. He was the best friend of Edward, following him into exile. Hastings was a “bad boy” who kept up with the King when he was partying and whoring. He was with Edward when he first met Elizabeth, not the Earl of Warwick. His removal will cause problems in later episodes, as other characters try to fill the void his removal has left. Who will take over the care of Elizabeth (“Jane”) Shore when Edward dies? Who will Richard III execute out of nowhere to earn the enmity of the noblemen? We will have to wait and see.

When Elizabeth leads Edward and his gang back to Grafton, Warwick is very, very disrespectful to her mother. Likewise Elizabeth’s father and brothers are disrespectful to Edward until he announces his marriage to Elizabeth. This is not something that would be ignored. The Dowager Duchess of Bedford may have been married to a Baron but since she retained her title she outranked the Earl of Warwick. For him to mock her, to talk down about her husband would be massively insulting. He should have dismounted and bowed to her, but he doesn’t. And for the various Woodville brothers and Baron Rivers to not bow to Edward is unthinkable, as even if they didn’t recognize him as their king he was still the Duke of York. This level of disrespect can be best summed up with the phrase “fighting words.” To treat a person who outranks you in such a way was practically begging for a war. They would have been very conscious of this, and wouldn’t have behaved as such unless they wanted to “throw down.”

…To be continued.

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