The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir


  At the centre of this circle of patronage was the King, to whom all sought access. This was usually granted only after receipt of a written

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  request. The King was seen as the fount of all honours and benefits, but Edward was shrewd and only rewarded those who were prepared to serve him well; there were few time-servers at his court. To his credit, he did not allow his many mistresses any political power, nor did he advance his bastards, but he had promoted and favoured the Wydvilles and in the eyes of many that was thought just as bad, especially since, in the years after 1471, their influence was extended to encompass the heir to the throne.

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  In June 1471, Elizabeth Darcy was appointed Lady Mistress of the newly-created Prince of Wales' nursery, and Avice Welles was given the post of nurse. On 3rd July, the King commanded his chief magnates to swear an oath of allegiance to the Prince as 'the very undoubted son and heir of our sovereign lord'. Forty-seven lords gave their oath, foremost amongst them being the Dukes of Clarence, Gloucester and Buckingham. Five days later the King issued Letters Patent appointing a council that would be responsible for the administration of his son's household and estates until he reached the age of fourteen, his expected majority. Its members comprised the Queen, Clarence, Gloucester and a panel of bishops. Sir Thomas Vaughan was given the office of Prince's Chamberlain; his duty was to walk behind the King, carrying the young Edward in his arms, on ceremonial occasions. Vaughan would remain with Edward for most of his life, offering him dedicated service, and it appears that his charge became very close to him.

  In 1473, when he was three, the Prince of Wales' household was permanently established at Ludlow Castle on the Welsh Marches. On 23rd September that year a series of ordinances governing the Prince's upbringing and education were drawn up. Although the regime was rather strict for so young a child, these ordinances reveal the tender love felt by the King for his son, and in some respects they show an enlightened approach to child-rearing. The Prince was to rise each morning 'at a convenient hour according to his age', and attend Matins and mass before breakfast. Before dinner he was to be instructed 'in such virtuous learning as his age shall suffer to receive'. This included listening to 'such noble stories as behoveth a prince to understand and know'. Afternoons were to be spent in physical activity and the acquiring of the knightly arts such as horsemanship, swordsmanship,

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  tossing the quintain and 'such convenient disports and exercises as behoveth his estate to have experience in'. After Vespers and supper, the Prince was allowed some time for play, when he could indulge in 'such honest disports as shall be conveniently devised for his recreation'. Until he was twelve, he was sent to bed at 8.00 pm; from 1482, he was allowed to stay up until 9.00 pm. His tutors and servants were sensibly exhorted 'to enforce themselves to make him merry and joyous towards his bed', and once he was asleep a watch was kept over him throughout the night in case sudden illness carry off 'God's precious sending and gift' and the King's 'most desired treasure'. No 'swearer, brawler, backbiter, common hazarder or adulterer' was ever to be allowed into the household; Edward IV was taking no chances.

  On 10th November, 1473, the Prince's maternal uncle, Anthony Wydville, Earl Rivers, then aged thirty-one, was appointed his Governor, a post which made him effective ruler of Wales; Rivers was also preferred to the Prince's newly-formed Council, commissioned in the names of Edward and his mother to govern and restore order to the Welsh Marches on behalf of the King. The Council was nominally accountable to the Prince, but the man with real power was its Lord President, John Alcock, Bishop of Worcester (later Bishop of Ely), who had served briefly as Lord Chancellor of England in 1475 and was a founder of Jesus College, Cambridge. Alcock had also been given responsibility for the Prince's education, and tutored him personally. The faithful Sir Thomas Vaughan was appointed Treasurer to the Prince, and continued to care for the child's daily needs, there being no women at Ludlow. Edward's half-brother, Sir Richard Grey, was also on his Council, as was his mother's relative, Sir Richard Haute.

  For the next ten years, says Mancini, the growing Prince lived at Ludlow, and 'devoted himself to horses and dogs and other useful exercises to invigorate his body'. The castle was his chief residence, but he spent time also at the manor of Tickenhill at Bewdley, which his father had had prepared as a kind of holiday retreat for him. He was exceptionally lucky in his governor and uncle, who was not only as powerful a figure in the Welsh Marches as Gloucester was in the north, but also, states Mancini, 'a kindly, serious and just man, and one tested by every vicissitude of life. Whatever his prosperity, he had injured nobody, though benefiting many, and therefore he had entrusted to him the care and direction of the King's son.' Rivers and his late father,

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  reported the Milanese ambassador, were 'men of very great valour'. More thought Rivers to be a man of honour. To his contemporaries, he was indeed the very mirror of Chaucer's 'parfait, gentil knight' -brave, chivalrous, cultivated, elegant, charming, pious and well-educated, and his feats in the jousting lists were renowned.

  Rivers was a very religious man, even an ascetic one, for he wore a hair shirt beneath his rich robes. During his early years at Ludlow he translated three devotional works from Latin to French; this work, entitled The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, was in 1476 the first book to be printed in England by William Caxton, whose patron Rivers was. Rivers' piety also led him to write poetry about the seven deadly sins, and to go on several pilgrimages abroad. He had travelled all over Europe, visiting several Italian cities including Rome, and the shrine of St James of Compostella in Spain; Pope Sixtus IV had been sufficiently impressed by him to appoint him Defender and Director of Papal Causes in England.

  Rivers added to these talents his abilities as a military and naval commander and as a diplomat. But he was first and foremost a Wydville, loyal to his sister and her faction, and his appointment as Governor of the Prince, together with the careful selection of the members of the Council of the Marches, meant that young Edward would grow to maturity firmly under Wydville control, influenced by his mother's supporters throughout his formative years. As More commented, 'In effect, everyone as he was nearest of kin unto the Queen, so was planted next about the prince, whereby her blood might of youth be rooted in the Prince's favour.' And that is exactly what happened.

  On 17th August, 1473, Queen Elizabeth bore a second son at the Dominican Friary in Shrewsbury (a fourth daughter, Margaret, had died in infancy the previous year). This new prince was called Richard, and he was created Duke of York in 1474, thus setting a precedent for the tradition that the second son of an English monarch is usually given this title. Soon, more children joined the royal nursery: Anne in 1475, George (who died at the age of two) in 1477, Katherine in 1479, and Bridget in 1480. This last princess was dedicated to religion from her infancy, and entered Dartford Priory at the age of seven.

  In 1475, Edward IV appointed the Prince of Wales Guardian of the Realm during his coming absence in France which was to last from 4th

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  July to 20th September; the Queen was granted £2,200 yearly for the maintenance of her eldest son whilst he lived at court. The Prince made a state entry into London on 12th May, and was knighted by his father on Whitsunday at the Palace of Westminster. In France, Edward IV concluded with Louis XI the Treaty of Picquigny, which provided for the betrothal of Edward's eldest daughter Elizabeth of York to the Dauphin of France. Commines says that the King and Queen were delighted with the match, anticipating that Elizabeth would have a glorious future as queen of France. Henceforth they had her dressed in the French style and addressed as Madame la Dauphine.

  A year later the Prince of Wales' marriage came under consideration, when Edward IV opened negotiations with Ferdinand and Isabella, the joint sovereigns of a newly-united Spain, for the hand of their daughter and heiress, the Infanta Isabella. These dragged on for two years until Isabella was superseded in the succession by her bro
ther Juan, born in 1478; seeing her political value diminished, Edward IV lost interest. His next choice was the daughter of the late Duke of Milan, but the Duke's widow, Bianca of Savoy, was against the match, so the King had to abandon it.

  * * *

  The Prince of Wales and his younger siblings were not the only children born into the House of York during the 1470s. The Duchess of Clarence's first child had died at birth, but in 1473 she bore a daughter Margaret, and in 1475 a son Edward, who was styled Earl of Warwick in right of his mother. A fourth child, Richard, arrived on 6th October, 1476 in the new infirmary at Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire, but -- according to the Tewkesbury Abbey Chronicle -- his mother never recovered from the birth. By 12th November she was so ill that she was taken home to Warwick Castle to die. She lingered until 21st December, and her infant son followed her to the grave on 1st January. After lying in state for thirty-five days, the Duchess's body was buried in a new vault behind the high altar of Tewkesbury Abbey, near her Beauchamp forefathers.

  The loss of his wife merely added to Clarence's woes. He was royal, he was wealthy, he had been given by the King his splendid London house, The Erber, and his household numbered nearly 300 persons and cost £4,000 yearly at that time to run. Yet all this was not enough. He

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  still burned with resentment because Gloucester had received so much of the Warwick inheritance; it was Gloucester who held sway in the north where once the Nevilles had ruled, whereas Clarence was baulked of power by the King, who would not even let him go to Ireland to fulfil his duties as Lord Lieutenant. It does not seem to have occurred to him that he had given Edward no cause to trust him, and that he had been lucky to be forgiven for his earlier treachery.

  Gloucester's power was not the only reason for Clarence's dissatisfaction. At court, the Wydvilles held sway, and in Wales, that other potential power base, their influence was paramount. It was obvious to Clarence that he was politically isolated and that the King had no intention of allowing him more than the semblance of power. In 1477, to make matters even worse, Edward IV thwarted Clarence's attempt to marry the young Mary of Burgundy, whose father, Duke Charles the Bold, had been killed at the battle of Nancy, leaving her sole heiress to that great duchy. As Mary's husband, Clarence would be Duke of Burgundy and ruler of a powerful continental principality. Edward IV had no intention of allowing this to happen, and urged Mary's marriage to Maximilian of Austria. Croyland says that this 'increased Clarence's displeasure still further' and that from now on the brothers 'each began to look upon the other with no very fraternal eyes'.

  What really lay behind Edward's aversion to the match was his knowledge that Mary of Burgundy had a claim to the English throne through her grandmother Isabella of Portugal, a granddaughter of John of Gaunt. There was also, according to Rous and Vergil, a popular prophecy then in circulation, which foretold that 'G' should follow 'E' to the throne. Both writers say that Edward was much troubled by this prophecy, since Clarence's name was George. Then Queen Elizabeth added fuel to the fire when she proposed her brother Rivers as a husband for Mary of Burgundy, a proposal that was treated with contempt by the Burgundian court. But when Clarence, abandoning his suit, proposed to marry a Scottish princess, Edward refused to grant permission for that also.

  Clarence was not the man to take this kind of treatment meekly. He retaliated by striking at the Queen, and the Rolls of Parliament record how he set about doing this. In the spring of 1477, Elizabeth Wydville had in her service a woman called Ankarette Twynho, a respectable widow of good family who had previously served the late Duchess of

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  Clarence. On 12th April, without any warrant, 100 of Clarence's retainers dragged Ankarette from her home near Frome in Somerset, seized her valuables, and shut her up in the jail at Warwick. Three days later she was brought before the justices at Warwick Guildhall and accused of having administered 'a venomous drink mixed with poison' to the Duchess, and also of being the means whereby the Queen had used sorcery to bewitch her sister-in-law and so help to bring about her death. The jury, intimidated by Clarence, duly found the helpless Ankarette guilty as charged, and she was taken that same day to the public gallows and hanged, pitifully protesting her innocence. With her suffered John Thoresby of Warwick for allegedly poisoning the Duchess's baby.

  The allegations made by Clarence against Ankarette Twynho were so patently fabricated, and so touched the Queen's reputation and honour that retribution was inevitable. Furthermore, Clarence had debased royal justice by his unlawful arrest and murder of his victims. Yet the Council, well aware that his real target was the Queen and at the same time fearful of scandal, did its best to suppress the truth.

  The Wydvilles had never had any reason to love Clarence. He had denounced the King's marriage, and been responsible with Warwick for the executions of the Queen's father and brother John in 1469. It was hardly surprising therefore that the Wydvilles quickly retaliated with a counter-charge of sorcery against Clarence, and that the King decided to give his brother a taste of his own bitter medicine as a warning.

  Early in May, 1477, Edward IV ordered the arrest of Dr John Stacey, an Oxford clerk and astronomer of sinister reputation. After lengthy questioning and torture, Stacey revealed that Thomas Burdett, a member of Clarence's household, had asked him to cast the horoscopes of the King and the Prince of Wales, with a view to predicting when they might die. Evidently the forecast was unsatisfactory, as before long the two men were allegedly 'moulding leaden images' of Edward and his son in order to bring about their deaths by black magic. Of course, the implication was that Clarence was the prime mover in the plot, but the King did not as yet go so far as to arrest his own brother. Stacey and Burdett were arraigned and condemned as a warning to him, and were executed on 20th May at Tyburn, Burdett declaring, 'Behold I die, but I did none of these things.' Clarence, by-passing the

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  King, had protested their innocence before the Council but was ignored; instead, the Council declared that the evidence against Ankarette Twynho would be re-examined.

  Clarence should have been warned, but rushed headlong into further trouble. He began by publicly denouncing the King as a bastard and a necromancer, and alleging that Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Wydville was null and void because tradition forbade kings of England to marry widows. Clarence then incited, or became involved in, a minor rebellion in the eastern counties against the King, and rumour had it in Europe that he was plotting with Louis XI to help Margaret of Anjou invade England. There may have been no truth in this, but it did not help matters. Finally, Clarence attacked the Queen, openly accusing her of having murdered his duchess by poison and sorcery, and pointedly refusing to eat or drink anything at court.

  The King, with astonishing forbearance, turned a blind eye on all these things, probably realising that Clarence would soon enough become the victim of his own follies. Few took him seriously, and he had very little real power. But when Edward went to Windsor in June, Clarence went beyond the point of no return. Storming into the council chamber at Westminster, he insultingly denounced the King's justice and the sentences on Stacey and Burdett, and had their written declarations of innocence read aloud by a priest who was with him.

  When he heard what Clarence had done, the King's patience gave way. Honour demanded that Clarence be punished for this crowning act of lèse-majesté. The Queen was insisting upon it. Mancini says she 'remembered the insults to her family and the calumnies with which she was reproached, namely that she was not the legitimate wife of the King. Thus she concluded that her offspring by the King would never come to the throne unless the Duke of Clarence were removed, and of this she easily persuaded the King. The Queen's alarm was intensified by the comeliness of the Duke of Clarence, which would make him appear worthy of the crown.' Elizabeth's fear of Clarence was, it seems, far greater than the King's, and this has led some writers to conclude that he knew something about her past that she did not want revealed. There is, however, no
evidence that this was so, and we should remember that Clarence's allegations in respect of the King's bastardy and the validity of his marriage were alarming enough in the circumstances. Logically speaking, given his state of mind at that time, if

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  Clarence had known any secrets about the Queen that could be used to his advantage, he would certainly not have hesitated to make them public. Instead, he had fallen back on old, baseless rumours about his brother and invented grounds for the invalidity of the royal marriage that were entirely nonsensical.

  Edward IV left Windsor immediately and went to Westminster, where he summoned Clarence and the Mayor and aldermen of London. In the presence of the latter, 'with his own lips', he accused Clarence of 'going above the law' and 'conduct derogatory to the laws of the realm and most dangerous to judges throughout the kingdom', as well as usurping the royal prerogative by acting 'as though he had used a king's power'. Clarence could not deny that he had done these things, and he was arrested and incarcerated in the Tower of London on a blanket charge of 'committing acts violating the laws of the realm'. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Clarence was a danger to his brother and to the succession. He languished in his prison, traditionally in the Bowyer Tower, until in November 1477 Edward IV made up his mind to try him publicly for his offences. Parliament was then summoned, chiefly for this purpose.

 
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