The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir


  Buckingham also received the first of his rewards on 28th June: he was appointed Great Chamberlain of England and given many lands

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  and castles. Two days later the double-agent William Catesby was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer and an Esquire of the Body to the King. Catesby acted as Speaker in Parliament in 1484 and was one of Richard Ill's foremost councillors.

  The King's coronation was set for 6th July. Five days before that the army he had summoned from the North arrived at the gates of London and camped outside. Mancini says it numbered 6,000 men. Although this presence was no longer needed to put down any rebellion against Richard's accession, the King decided to retain its services until after his coronation because 'he was afraid lest any uproar should be fomented against him at his coronation. He himself went out to meet the soldiers before they entered the City.'

  'There was hasty provision made for his coronation,' records the Great Chronicle. On 4th July the King and Queen went in the royal barge along the river from Westminster to the Tower of London, where Richard formally released Archbishop Rotherham and appointed Lord Stanley steward of his household. He and Queen Anne then took up residence in the royal apartments.

  Security for the coronation was tight. On that same day a proclamation ordered the imposing of a 10.00 pm curfew for the next three nights and forbade the citizens of London to carry arms. Visitors to the City had to stay in officially approved lodgings. Mancini states that the northern soldiers were 'stationed at suitable points' along the streets, and that they stayed there until after the coronation.

  On 5th July the King donned a gown of blue cloth of gold and a mantle of purple trimmed with ermine. The Queen put on 'a kirtle of white cloth of gold and a mantle with a train of the same', bordered with ermine. Then, he on horseback, she in a litter, they 'left the Tower, passing through the midst of the City, attended by the entire nobility and a display of royal honours', and so came to Westminster, where they would spend the night. 4,000 'gentlemen of the north' followed in the procession. As he rode, the King, says Mancini, 'with bared head greeted all onlookers, and himself received their acclamations'. But the evidence in most contemporary accounts of the period show that the mood of the public was resentful, even hostile, for all that many were carried away by the holiday mood of the occasion.

  Nevertheless this was to be one of the most splendid of all mediaeval coronations in England, and the best attended, as almost the entire

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  English peerage had come to London for the Parliament which had been postponed. In the morning of 6th July Queen Anne gave her husband a long embroidered mantle of purple cloth of gold, made to her order by the Keeper of the Wardrobe, Piers Curteys. She herself wore purple robes made from 56 yards of velvet, which must have been uncomfortably hot on a July day. Thus attired, Richard and Anne made their way through the White Hall to Westminster Hall, where they sat enthroned on the King's Bench. Then, the procession having formed, they walked barefoot upon striped cloth to St Edward's shrine within Westminster Abbey, preceded by the nobility of England. Norfolk officiated as Earl Marshal and High Steward and carried the King's crown. Buckingham, who had the 'chief rule and devising' of the ceremonial, carried the King's train. The Duke of Suffolk carried the sceptre, his son the Earl of Lincoln the orb, and the Earl of Surrey the sword of state. Richard himself was supported by Bishop Stillington. The Queen's train was carried by Lady Stanley, the former Margaret Beaufort, and her attendants were led by the Duchesses of Suffolk and Norfolk. Significantly, perhaps, the King's mother, the Duchess of York, did not attend the coronation. The Duchess of Buckingham was also absent, by order of her husband, who made it plain he was not parading his Wydville wife for all to see.

  For the anointing, Richard and Anne, according to the account preserved in the Harleian MSS. in the British Library, 'put off their robes and stood all naked from their waists upwards, till the Bishop had anointed them'. Then 'Te Deum' was sung 'with great royalty', after which, says Mancini, Archbishop Bourchier, 'albeit unwillingly, anointed and crowned [Richard] King of England'.

  After the peers had paid homage to their new sovereign and Richard and Anne had received Holy Communion, the procession re-formed and left the Abbey, the King preceding the Queen back to Westminster Hall, where the coronation banquet lasted five and a half hours. It was noticed that the Archbishop did not attend, and his place at the King's right at the high table on the dais was taken by the Bishop of London. The day ended with the King and Queen retiring to a fanfare of trumpets.

  A day or so after the coronation Richard and Anne went to Greenwich Palace and thence to Windsor. The northern troops were sent home, the tension in London having dissipated, and the King gave

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  his attention to organising his Council and planning a progress through his kingdom. The progress was to be a well-planned exercise in public relations and self-promotion, with the King exerting himself to charm and win over his new subjects with liberality and accessible justice.

  After the coronation, the Princes in the Tower were never seen alive again.

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  12. Conspiracies

  Dominic Mancini left England during the week after the coronation, and his account, sadly for us, ends there. He says that, before his departure, the Princes had 'ceased to appear altogether', and this is corroborated by every other source. Already, people were thinking and fearing the worst. Mancini writes: 'I have seen many men burst forth into tears and lamentations when mention was made of [Edward V] after his removal from men's sight; and already there was a suspicion that he had been done away with. Whether, however, he has been done away with, and by what manner of death, so far I have not at all discovered.'

  Mancini's account is the earliest evidence of rumours that the Princes were dead. Given the fate of earlier deposed kings -- Edward II, Richard II and Henry VI had all been secretly murdered -- it is hardly surprising that people should suspect that the same fate had overtaken Edward V and his brother. The people with whom Mancini associated would have been intelligent men of standing in business and courtly circles; the fact that they believed the Princes to be already dead is proof that these rumours were not mere speculative gossip but the product of serious concern on the part of informed men who were not so hard-headed that they could fail to be deeply distressed when contemplating the possible murder of two children.

  It is clear, nevertheless, as we shall see from the Croyland Chronicle - whose author was well-placed to know the truth -- that the Princes were not yet dead. Fabyan states simply that they were now 'under sure

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  keeping. They never came abroad after,' but More, who had reliable sources close to the Tower, gives more details of the Princes' imprisonment. They were, he says, 'both shut up, and all others removed from them, only one called Black Will or Will Slaughter except, set to serve them and see them sure. After which time the Prince never tied his points [i.e. did up his hose] nor aught wrought of himself, but with that young babe his brother lingered in thought and heaviness and wretchedness.' More's account is substantiated by the details of Edward's captivity passed from Dr Argentine to Mancini, and almost certainly describes Edward's mental condition a few weeks after Argentine last saw him. By that time the boy was so sunk in misery and fear that he was unable to perform even basic tasks, such as dressing himself properly.

  William Slaughter, whose nickname 'Black Will' may have derived from his appearance or, more ominously, his character, was both gaoler and servant to the Princes. More, in a later passage, reveals that the number of attendants was soon increased to four, and that 'one of the four that kept them' was Miles Forrest, 'a fellow fleshed in murder before his time'. No record exists of Forrest's crime(s), but it is thought that he was a northerner; a Miles Forrest had been keeper of the wardrobe at Barnard Castle in Yorkshire, a residence owned by Richard III since his marriage. This was almost certainly the same man, and he was undoubtedly known to the King. It is t
ypical of Richard that he should entrust such a task to one of his loyal northerners.

  Meanwhile the King, taking no chances, was still heaping rewards on Buckingham, who was given even more honours and wider powers to ensure his support. On 13th July Richard issued a provisional grant naming the Duke rightful heir to the disputed Bohun inheritance, this grant to be confirmed by Parliament, which would reverse a former grant giving some of the Bohun estates to Elizabeth Wydville. On 15th July Buckingham was appointed Lord High Constable of England, an office which made him chief commander of the army and gave him jurisdiction over military offences, control of all matters relating to heraldry and chivalry, and responsibility for fortifications and defence. In this latter capacity the Tower of London, the chief military stronghold of the capital, came under his jurisdiction. However, contrary to what several writers have asserted, his office did not give him the right to demand entry to the fortress without the permission of its Lieutenant

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  or Constable, who, although they were subordinate officers, were not empowered to obey orders from the Lord High Constable unless they came direct from the King, under his seal.

  The Tower records for the beginning of Richard Ill's reign are no longer extant, and therefore we do not know who occupied the offices of Lieutenant and Constable. The Lieutenant was the officer with overall charge of and responsibility for the Tower, and had a lodging there. There are indications that Lord Howard may have acted as Lieutenant for a time: the entries in his account books, already referred to, and the fact that it was he and his son who obtained barges and escorted York to the Tower.

  The Constable was subordinate to the Lieutenant and had charge of any prisoners and the day to day running of the Tower. In July 1483 the office of Constable was held, nominally, by John, Lord Dudley, an old man; after him, Lord Dacre had the reversion, and after him John Howard, Duke of Norfolk. There is no evidence to show that either Dudley or Dacre took an active part in the affairs of the Tower. Rivers had been deputy constable but that appointment had lapsed when he was arrested.

  Obviously this state of affairs could not be allowed to continue, especially since the Tower now housed the Princes, two state prisoners of the utmost importance. Hence on 17th July the King appointed another northerner, Sir Robert Brackenbury, as Constable of the Tower, with special responsibility for the safe-keeping of the Princes. Brackenbury came from Selaby, County Durham. He had entered Gloucester's service some years previously and risen to the rank of treasurer of his household in the North. In those years he had conceived great respect, devotion and loyalty for his master, and had accordingly been taken into Richard's confidence, becoming one of his most trusted servants. Brackenbury himself was a well-intentioned if naive man of kindly disposition, who was popular at court. The Chronicle of Calais calls him 'gentle Brackenbury' and Polydore Vergil stresses his integrity. As far as Richard was concerned Brackenbury was the ideal man for the job of Constable. He was utterly loyal, could see no wrong in his master, could be fully trusted with state secrets, and was known and respected as a man of honour. No-one would suspect Brackenbury of ill-treating or harming his prisoners. He was also well aware of the high-security risk posed by the presence of the Princes in the Tower,

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  for they were a potential focus for rebellion and the King's enemies might try to spirit them away. But no-one would get past the staunch Brackenbury without a King's warrant. Thus, says Croyland, 'the two sons of King Edward remained in the Tower of London in the custody of certain persons appointed for that purpose' -- a reference to Brackenbury and the four attendant-gaolers, Slaughter, Forrest and two unnamed others, referred to by More.

  On the day after Brackenbury was appointed Constable, a royal warrant was issued authorising payment of wages to thirteen men for their services to 'Edward, bastard, late called King Edward V. These were the servants whose dismissal after the death of Hastings was recorded by Mancini.

  Preparations for the royal progress were completed that July. On the day before he was due to set out, Richard appointed his seven-year-old son, Edward of Middleham, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, a title customarily borne by Yorkist heirs to the throne. Then, on 20th July, the King left Windsor, leaving Queen Anne behind, for it had been arranged that she should join him later. He went to London, and two days later rode out westwards at the head of a great procession, accompanied by his nephew the Earl of Lincoln and probably by Buckingham. Both Vergil and More say that Buckingham rode with the King as far as Gloucester, where they parted. Rous gives a detailed description of the royal retinue but fails to mention Buckingham: this is probably accounted for by the fact that Rous lived at Warwick, which Richard visited after Buckingham had left his train. It may seem strange that Buckingham's name had earlier been omitted from a list of those present at a dinner given in the King's honour by Magdalen College, Oxford, but it is not necessarily proof that the Duke remained in London, as some have alleged.

  Richard spent this first night of his progress at Reading. There, on 23rd July, he issued a grant pardoning Lord Hastings' 'offences' and promising 'to be a good and gracious lord' to Hastings' widow, Katherine, who was granted the wardship and marriage of her son Edward, possession of her late husband's moveable property, and custody of his estates during her son's minority. Hastings' high offices had been shared between Buckingham, Catesby and Lovell. Richard

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  displayed similar generosity to the widow of Lord Rivers. He was anxious to convince his subjects that he was not the tyrant they believed him to be, that he only punished traitors when he had to, and that his vengeance did not extend to their families.

  On 24th July the King reached Oxford, where he dined at Magdalen College, stayed the night, and spent much of the following day. Then he rode to Woodstock Palace nearby where he piled further honours upon Norfolk, appointing him Lord Admiral of England, Surveyor of Array in thirteen counties, Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster, and a member of the Council. He also granted him forty-six manors in East Anglia and the rents from twenty-five others, all the former property of Lord Rivers. Three days later Norfolk received twenty more of Rivers' manors. Next to Buckingham, he was now the most wealthy and powerful subject in the kingdom.

  Richard spent another day at Oxford on 26th July, inspecting the colleges, then stayed for a few days as the guest of Lord Lovell at his nearby house, Minster Lovell. But while he was there the tranquillity and apparent success of the progress so far was disturbed by the arrival of alarming news that would have a direct bearing on the fate of his nephews in the Tower.

  For all the magnificence of his coronation, his cultivated display of majesty and his attempts to buy the loyalty of his magnates, Richard III knew his position to be insecure. Many of his subjects, particularly the gentry in the South and West, felt nothing but odium for the way in which this near northerner had set aside the rightful King and usurped the throne. His blatant acts of tyranny had alienated many of those who might have supported him, and there was a hard core of gentlefolk who were ready and willing to take action to restore Edward V to the throne. The popular view seems to have been that Richard's claim was based on a tissue of lies and that Edward ought never to have been deposed.

  The only informed account of what happened next comes from Croyland, who says that while the coronation and progress 'were taking place, King Edward IV's two sons were in the Tower of London under special guard. In order to release them from such captivity, the people from the South and the West of the kingdom began to murmur

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  greatly and to form assemblies and confederacies, many of which worked in secret, others openly, with this aim.' The conspirators appear to have been disaffected Yorkists, loyal to the line of Edward IV but not to Richard III, as well as Lancastrian dissidents and the Wydville faction: the Queen's three brothers, Lionel, Edward and Richard, were all involved. Some of the plotters appealed to Buckingham to join them, but he rejected the offer out of hand.

 
Very few details of these conspiracies are known. The Elizabethan antiquarian John Stow wrote in 1580 of a plot in July 1483 to secure the release of Edward V from the Tower by diverting his gaolers with a blaze. This may indeed have been the object of one of the conspiracies, but there is no other evidence for it. What we do know is that a plot was hatched in the Sanctuary, not to rescue Edward V -- which the intriguers must have realised was impossible, but to spirit his sisters overseas. This plot seems to have originated, according to Croyland, with 'those men who had taken refuge in the sanctuaries', a possible reference to the Queen's brothers. There can be little doubt that Elizabeth Wydville herself was involved: her co-operation would be vital in such a plan. Like many people, she feared for her sons' safety, and when it was put to her 'that some of the King's daughters should leave Westminster and go in disguise to parts beyond the sea', she perceived that this would guarantee some measure of safety to all her children. If anything happened to Edward and Richard, the Lady Elizabeth would in the eyes of many be the rightful Queen of England; abroad, she would be free to make a strategic marriage with one of a number of foreign princes who would be willing and eager to take up arms to restore her to her inheritance and so gain a crown. Wrote Croyland: 'If any fatal mishap should befall the male children of the late King in the Tower, the kingdom might still, in consequence of the safety of the daughters, some day fall again into the hands of the rightful heirs.' And the fact that Edward IV's daughters were abroad and able to challenge Richard's title might make the usurper think twice about doing away with his nephews, which is what people, feared he would do. In agreeing to participate in this conspiracy, the Queen was not only attempting to safeguard the legitimate Yorkist succession but seeking to preserve her own political influence.

 
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