The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir

  On 15th January, 1478, the day before Parliament was due to convene, a royal wedding took place. The bridegroom was the King's younger son, the four-year-old Duke of York, and the bride was six-year-old Anne Mowbray, Duchess of Norfolk in her own right since the death in 1476 of her father, John Mowbray, fourth and last Duke of Norfolk in the Mowbray line. The wedding, celebrated at St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster, was a splendid state occasion, with almost the whole royal family and court attending. After the marriage, the King induced Parliament to pass an Act declaring that York should enjoy the dukedom of Norfolk and the Mowbray inheritance for life, in right of his wife, even if she predeceased him. This proviso overlooked the superior claim that Anne's coheirs, the Howards and the Berkeleys, would have to the inheritance in the event of her death. The King had come to an accommodation with them, but there was no avoiding the fact that what he had done was against all legal precedents governing the laws of inheritance and there were many who blamed the Queen's influence for this.

  On the day following his son's marriage, Edward IV opened Parliament and Clarence was brought to the House of Lords to be indicted


  on a new charge of high treason. He faced a hostile chamber, whose members had been well-briefed and even bribed by the King, as Croyland infers, with regard to the verdict they should deliver. Many were only too eager to acquiesce to the King's wishes, for Clarence had made many enemies and few friends during his turbulent career. Others, though, were shocked to see the King's brother on a capital charge.

  It was an extraordinary hearing. The King himself read out the long indictment, the text of which was incorporated into the Act of Attainder afterwards brought before Parliament. The indictment accused Clarence of 'new treasons to exalt himself and his heir to the regality and crown of England', stressing that these were 'much higher, much more malicious treasons than had been found at any time previously during the reign'. The King stated that he had 'ever loved and cherished [Clarence], as tenderly or kindly as ever creature might his natural brother', giving him 'so large portion of possessions that seldom hath been seen. The Duke, for all this, no love increasing, but growing daily in more and more malice', had 'falsely and traitorously intended and purposed firmly the extreme destruction and disinheriting of the King and his issue'. He had 'spread the falsest and most unnatural coloured pretence that man might imagine, that the King our most sovereign lord was a bastard, and not begotten to reign upon us'. He had not only kept his copy of a document drawn up in 1470 naming him Henry VI's heir, but was now claiming also to be the heir to York. Finally, he had plotted to send his infant son to Ireland, 'whereby he might have gotten him assistance and favour against our sovereign lord'; a child resembling young Warwick was to have been substituted for him during his absence.

  These were all quite specific charges, and all equally damning; every one attracted the death penalty. There was silence as the King read them out. Croyland recalled: 'Not a single person uttered a word against the Duke except the King; not one individual made answer to the King except the Duke.' But Clarence's protests availed him not at all, nor did his offer to have the case decided by 'wager of battle'. Edward IV meant to have a conviction for high treason, and Croyland says he did not give Clarence a chance to defend himself properly.

  The Act of Attainder against Clarence became law on 8th February 1478. On the previous day the Duke of Buckingham had been


  appointed Seneschal of England in place of Gloucester, and in that capacity he pronounced sentence of death upon the prisoner. It may be that Gloucester had asked to be spared this duty. Buckingham also sentenced the condemned man to the forfeiture of his honours, titles, lands and estates to the Crown. Croyland felt that the King had secured his brother's condemnation 'on dubious grounds', but there was no doubt that Clarence had committed the crimes of which he had been accused.

  Both Croyland and Vergil place the responsibility for Clarence's condemnation solely on the King, and they were probably right to do so, but it was widely believed at the time that the Queen and her faction had been the prime movers in the matter; they had a motive for doing so, and had probably been waiting for an opportunity to eliminate their enemy. In 1483, Mancini heard that the Queen's brother, Edward Wydville, and her sons, Dorset and Grey, had been instrumental in securing Clarence's conviction.

  Gloucester certainly believed that the Wydvilles had brought about his brother's condemnation, perceiving that it was a triumph for them, but while this must have been galling in the extreme to him, he did not lift a finger to save Clarence. He may well even have acquiesced in his fall, for there is some contemporary evidence that Gloucester was involved in the proceedings against Clarence. He was at court at the time, for his nephew's wedding, and had attended the Council meetings at which Clarence's fate was discussed. He also played his part in ensuring that Parliament was obedient to the King's wishes: five members at least were his own men. Gloucester also benefited more than anyone else from Clarence's fall. The Attainder against Clarence left Gloucester next in line to the throne after the King's issue; on 15th February his son Edward of Middleham was created Earl of Salisbury, a title that had been borne by Clarence; and on 21st February, Gloucester himself was given Clarence's high office of Great Chamberlain of England. More says that, while Gloucester was opposed to his brother being executed, 'some wise men' were of the opinion that he was not displeased by Clarence's fall.

  Edward IV was understandably reluctant to put his own brother to death, and he refused for over a week to give his assent to Clarence's execution. Before long, the Commons were clamouring for justice to take its course, as with any other traitor, and the Speaker came to the


  Bar of the Lords, requesting that what was to be done should be done at once. Finally, a deputation of members went to the King, who had no alternative but to accede to their demand for Clarence's death. At the request of their mother, the Duchess Cecily, the sentence was commuted from the full horrors of a traitor's death by hanging, drawing and quartering to beheading or, according to the French chronicler Molinet, any other method preferred by Clarence. The Duchess also begged that the execution take place in private, to avoid some of the scandal that publicity would lend to what was perceived primarily as an act of fratricide.

  On 18th February, 1478, Clarence was informed that he was to die that day in the Tower. The Calendar of Patent Rolls records that he asked for compensation to be paid to Lord Rivers 'in consideration of the injuries perpetrated on him and his parents' by Clarence and Warwick. Then, according to the Great Chronicle of London, 'the Duke of Clarence offered his own mass penny in the Tower, and about twelve of the clock at noon made his end in a rondolet of Malmsey'. Being drowned in wine was an unusual method of execution but Molinet says that Clarence himself had suggested it once in a joke to the King, adding that the Duke had lately expressed a real wish to end his days in this manner. Many contemporary chroniclers, including Commines, Mancini, and the Frenchmen Jean de Roye and Olivier de la Marche, corroborate the details given by Molinet and the author of the Great Chronicle; only Croyland is noncommittal, saying: 'The execution, whatever its nature may have been, took place in the Tower of London.' A portrait of Clarence's daughter Margaret, painted around 1530, shows her wearing a miniature wine-cask on a bracelet at her wrist -- a poignant memento of her father's fate.

  Two days after Clarence's death, Ankarette Twynho's heir Roger petitioned the King to reverse the verdict and sentence on his mother, and his petition was granted.

  Clarence was buried beside his wife in Tewkesbury Abbey, where his skull and a few bones are now displayed in a wall-niche near the high altar. He was given a noble funeral, the King bearing the cost and providing 'right worshipfully for his soul'. A beautiful tomb, surmounted by effigies of the Duke and Duchess, was raised to their memory, but has long gone, and the site of their vault is marked merely by a grille in the floor behind the high altar.


  Clarence's attainder meant that his orphaned children could not inherit his titles or lands, which had reverted to the Crown. Warwick, however, held his earldom in right of his mother, and the King allowed him a portion of her estates. The Queen's eldest son, Lord Dorset, bought the wardship and marriage of Warwick, and he and his sister Margaret were sent to Sheen to be brought up with Edward IV's children.

  Many modern writers have linked the subsequent brief imprisonment of Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, with the fall of Clarence. Stillington was a doctor of civil law, a brilliant intellectual with a great capacity for intrigue. He had been Chancellor of England from 1467-73, and had always enjoyed the favour of Edward IV. But between 27th February and 5th March, 1478, Stillington was arrested on a charge of 'violating his oath of fidelity by some utterance prejudicial to the King and his estate'. We do not know what he had said to give offence, nor is there any evidence that his misdemeanour was in any way connected with Clarence. It is possible that Clarence had allied himself with Stillington; his West-Country estates bordered upon Stillington's diocese. It may be that the Bishop had helped to spread Clarence's slanders about the King's bastardy and his marriage, but there is no proof of this. If Stillington's offence had been treasonable, or if he had posed any real danger to the King's security or the royal succession, he would have been permanently removed from the scene, as Clarence had been. Yet he was released on 20th June, 1478, on payment of a fine, and later given several respectable positions at court without, however, regaining his former influence.

  Vergil and More both asserted that Edward IV came to regret having executed Clarence, and Croyland, who knew the King, wrote: 'As I really believe, [he] inwardly repented very often of this act.' Vergil says Edward frequently lamented that no-one had interceded on Clarence's behalf; yet the removal of Clarence had been seen by the majority as a necessary evil that made good political sense. Nevertheless, it had set a precedent for violence within the royal family itself, and demonstrated how ruthless a king sometimes had to be if he wished to remain securely on his throne.

  Gloucester was certainly one who learned this lesson well, even as he was bitterly lamenting his brother's death. Only three days after it he procured the King's licence to set up two chantries at Middleham and


  Barnard Castle, so that prayers could be said in perpetuity for his dead siblings and all those of his House. According to Mancini, he blamed the Wydvilles for Clarence's execution. 'Richard was so overcome with grief for his brother that he could not dissimulate so well but that he was overheard to say that he would one day avenge his brother's death.' The Duke knew how ruthless the Queen could be, and must have recalled how, in 1467, she had stolen the King's signet ring and given the order for the execution of the Earl of Desmond, in revenge for his having made disparaging remarks to the King about his choice of bride. Unfortunately, the infamous John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, who carried out the execution in Ireland, exceeded his brief by murdering also two of Desmond's young sons, an atrocity for which Elizabeth Wydville must bear some responsibility.

  This tale has often been dismissed as a Tudor fabrication: the Queen's role in the executions was first publicly referred to in a petition to the Privy Council of her grandson, Henry VIII, made by Desmond's heirs in 1538. Falsely slandering King Henry's grandmother was hardly the way to secure a favourable answer to the petition, and there was no reason why the Desmond family should fabricate such allegations. Moreover, the deed is attested to in the Register of the Mayors of Dublin: 'This year, the Earl of Desmond and his two sons were executed by the Earl of Worcester at Drogheda,' and it is also referred to by Gloucester himself in a letter to Desmond's surviving son, in which he says that they shared a common grief, and that those responsible for Desmond's death and the death of his two sons were the same as had brought about Clarence's death.

  Gloucester now had the measure of the Wydville faction, and would remain acutely aware that they were capable of removing by fair means or foul any member of the royal House who stood in their way. 'Thenceforth,' wrote Mancini, 'he came very rarely to court.'


  5. 'Deadly Feuds and Factions'

  On 26th November, 1481, the Cely Letters recorded: 'My young lady of York is dead.' Anne Mowbray had died a week earlier at Greenwich Palace, aged only nine. She was buried in the Chapel of St Erasmus, Elizabeth Wydville's own foundation in Westminster Abbey, but when this chapel was demolished in the early sixteenth century to make way for the Henry VII Chapel, Anne's remains were moved to the Minoresses' convent in Stepney. Workmen excavating its site in 1964 found her coffin, buried eleven feet deep. Her remains were examined by medical experts, and then reburied as near as possible to her original resting place in Westminster Abbey.

  When Anne Mowbray died, her husband, the eight-year-old Duke of York, retained the dukedom of Norfolk in accordance with the terms of their marriage contract. His right to his wife's estates was confirmed by Act of Parliament in January 1483. To appease Lord Berkeley, one of the rightful coheirs, Edward IV excused him payment of a large debt owed to the Crown, and provided that the Mowbray inheritance should revert to Lords Berkeley and Howard if York died without male issue. Howard, however, received nothing, not even money owed him for supplying plate for the Queen's coronation in 1465. Many lords were angered by the King's treatment of Lord Howard, and concerned at Edward's failure to respect the ancient laws of inheritance upon which their power was built, though there is no evidence that Howard himself expressed any grievance.

  The King's elder daughters were now of marriageable age. Mary


  was betrothed in 1481 to the King of Denmark, but tragically died a year later, before the wedding could take place. At around the same time Cecily was betrothed to the Duke of Albany, brother of James III of Scotland, while preparations were still going ahead for the marriage of Elizabeth of York to the Dauphin. The King's children were described collectively by Croyland as 'sweet and beauteous', and by the French chronicler Jean de Waurin as 'fine looking and most delightful. There were five beautiful girls.'

  Edward IV, however, was no longer the magnificent specimen of manly beauty he had been in his earlier years. In 1475, while describing him as 'a very handsome king' and 'a prince of noble and majestic presence', Commines stated he was already 'a little inclining to corpulence'. Croyland says that by 1482, when he was forty, Edward IV was 'a man of such corpulence, and so fond of boon companionship, vanities, debauchery, extravagance and sensual enjoyments'. Mancini tells us that the King 'was most immoderate with food and drink. I have heard that he used to take purges just for the pleasure of gorging his stomach again. Because of his indulgence and idleness he developed a huge stomach, although previously he had not only been tall but lean as well, and led a strenuous life.'

  Edward's excesses had already undermined his health, and had also prompted hostility between influential members of the court. 'Although he had many promoters and companions of his vices,' wrote Mancini, 'the more important and especial were three of the relatives of the Queen, her two sons and one of her brothers.' These were Dorset, Grey and Rivers. The cultivated Rivers was popular with the people, although Dorset and Grey had 'earned the hatred of the populace on account of their morals, but mostly because of a certain inherent jealousy which arises between those who are equal by birth when there has been a change in their station'.

  Mancini adds that Edward had another boon companion, Lord Hastings, who 'was also the accomplice and partner of the King's privy pleasures'. William, Lord Hastings, was fifty in 1482; he came from a family of Yorkshire gentry who had loyally served the House of York through four generations. Hastings' rise to power began when, as a youth, he was placed in the household of the Duke of York. In 1461 he fought for Edward IV at Towton and was rewarded for his loyalty over the years with a knighthood, vast lands, a seat on the royal


  Council, the office of King's Chamberlain, and a baronage
. Mancini says that 'from an early age' Hastings had been 'a loyal companion of Edward'; he had also managed to maintain good relations with Clarence, and was well thought of by Gloucester. He was, after all, married to Katherine Neville, a first cousin of the royal brothers.

  Hastings had charm and great qualities. His contemporaries, with whom he was exceedingly popular, praised his loyalty, his upright character, his sense of honour and duty, his liberality, his many charities and benefactions, and his patronage of the arts. His closeness to the King meant that he enjoyed great influence, wealth and power -- more, indeed, than many of those of higher rank. This, however, together with Hastings' participation in Edward's debaucheries, earned him the jealousy and hatred of the Queen and her faction, which was exacerbated in 1482 by a dispute over the governorship of Calais, then an English possession. Hastings was appointed to this post by the King in preference to Earl Rivers. Rivers, piqued, accused Hastings of intriguing to sell Calais to the French, at which Hastings, knowing his neck was in jeopardy, retaliated by levelling the same accusation at Rivers. He now, to his dismay, discovered the extent of the power of the Wydvilles, who managed to have his informers against them executed for treason, conspiracy and sedition. Hastings fortunately convinced the King of his own innocence, but from then on he would maintain a deadly feud with Rivers and remain on bad terms with the Queen.

  Hastings was also engaged in a bitter rivalry with Lord Dorset, which, according to Mancini and More, was on account of the women they were continually trying to seduce from each other. In particular, they were rivals for the favours of Elizabeth Shore, the most famous of Edward IV's many mistresses.

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