The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir


  At this time, Judge John More, father of Thomas, was living near Cripplegate in Milk Street, which was in the same ward of the City of London as Redcross Street. In that street lived Richard Pottyer, a retainer of the Duke of Gloucester who held the post of attorney of the Duchy of Lancaster in Chancery; he may even have been Gloucester's own attorney. Judge More knew Pottyer and later learned how, on 9th April, Pottyer received a visit from one William Mistlebrook, who told him of the King's death. Pottyer's response was as chilling as it was incongruous: 'By my troth, man,' he said, 'then will my master the Duke of Gloucester be king!'

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  6. 'Those of the Queen's Blood'

  Edward IV left his kingdom to his eldest son, who was proclaimed King Edward V in London on nth April, 1483, at which time he was at Ludlow, 200 miles from the capital.

  Edward IV's only surviving will dates from 1475. In it, he entrusted the care of his son to 'our dearest wife the Queen', his chief executor. No provision was made for a minority. The Queen was to have any household goods she wanted and power to dispose of the rest. Her daughters were also to be governed and ruled by her in their choice of husbands.

  When he was on his deathbed, however, Edward IV either drew up a new will, or added codicils to the first. These documents do not survive, but their existence is attested to by the fact that the executors who met after the King's death were not those listed in the 1475 will, the Queen being the most notable omission. Rous states that Gloucester was named Protector of the Realm by this deathbed 'ordinance', and Mancini 'heard men say that in the same will [Edward IV] appointed as protector of his children and realm his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester'. Both Andre and Vergil repeat these details. It appears that Edward intended that Gloucester should govern the kingdom while the King was a minor, and have care and control of the royal children: this is implied in the Lord Chancellor's draft speech for the state opening of Parliament in June, 1483. Rivers, it seems, was to be removed from his office of Governor, and the Queen was apparently given no power at all. What probably prompted the late

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  King's change of heart was his realisation of the need to mitigate the rapaciousness and unpopularity of the Wydvilles.

  Mancini tells us that on 9th April, the day the King died, 'the Queen, with her second son, the Duke of York, and the rest of her family [sic], were in London, where was also the chamberlain, Hastings, with the Bishops of York and Ely, friends of the King. The royal treasure, the weight of which was said to be immense, was kept in the hands of the Queen and her people' at the Tower. In March 1483 the office of deputy constable of the Tower of London had been transferred from Rivers to Dorset, who was now in effective control of both the late King's treasure and the royal ordnance at the fortress. The Queen and her supporters held sway over the court, and Rivers had the young King in his charge. The Wydvilles were firmly entrenched and meant to stay that way, having determined to resist all attempts to make Gloucester protector. Their intention was to ignore Edward IV's will and use Edward V as a puppet, whose strings they themselves would pull.

  England, just then, was in a critical situation, having recently declared war on France, and it was essential that a stable regency government be established without delay. According to Croyland, on 9th April the late King's councillors 'were present with the Queen at Westminster'. Almost their first act was to decree that a new bidding prayer be said in churches 'for our new prince, our dread King Edward V, the Lady Queen Elizabeth his mother, all the royal offspring, the princes of the King, his nobles and people'. There was no direct reference to Gloucester, the protector-designate.

  Over the next two or three days, the councillors held several important and sometimes heated discussions, and there was some in-fighting between factions now that the firm hand of Edward IV was no longer there to control them, but the Queen, says Croyland, 'most beneficently tried to extinguish every mark of murmur and disturbance'. Very soon, it became clear that the councillors were divided into three camps: the Queen's party, which was the largest and included her kinsmen and most of the bishops, Archbishop Rotherham of York in particular; the smaller anti-Wydville faction led by Lord Hastings with the support of Lord Stanley; and a group including the Archbishop of Canterbury and John Russell, Bishop of Lincoln, who would not commit themselves either way. No-one declared openly for Gloucester.

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  Croyland says that the only common cause between these factions was loyalty to the son of Edward IV.

  Lord Hastings was under no illusion as to what the Wydvilles were trying to do. Their hostility towards him and the older nobility was palpable, and Croyland knew 'he feared that if supreme power fell into the hands of those of the Queen's blood, they would most bitterly revenge themselves on himself for the injuries which they claimed he had done to them'. According to Mancini, Hastings, in turn, 'was hostile to the entire kin of the Queen, on account of the Marquess of Dorset'. This was exacerbated by Hastings' precipitate action in making Elizabeth Shore his mistress as soon as the King was dead. Nevertheless, concerned as he was about the Wydvilles' power and the threat they posed to him, Hastings stayed his hand for the time being.

  The Wydvilles now sought by legal means to prevent Gloucester from becoming protector. They had discovered that this office was, according to precedent, purely an interim one, its purpose being to ensure the security and protection of the realm until the sovereign was safely crowned, at which time it would lapse. In 1429, during the minority of Henry VI, his uncle Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, had relinquished his office of lord protector as soon as the young King (then aged seven) had sworn to protect and defend the Church and his realm at his coronation.

  Edward V was now twelve years old, and there was no reason why he should not be crowned immediately. Indeed, the Wydvilles urged this, seeing an early coronation as a way of thwarting Gloucester's claim to be protector, an office they knew would cease to exist after this had taken place. The government then would be in the hands of the Wydville-dominated Council.

  At a meeting of the councillors which must have taken place around the time the King was proclaimed on nth April, the Queen and her party had little difficulty in convincing those present that the coronation should take place without delay. The date was fixed for Sunday, 4th May, and the decision made to summon Edward V to London at once. The Queen, who was taking no chances, demanded that her son be escorted by an army of soldiers, but at this Hastings, who foresaw trouble and bloodshed, exploded with anger and threatened to retire to Calais -- of which he was governor -- unless a smaller escort was

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  provided. His threat was implicit: it was in Calais that Warwick had plotted against Edward IV in 1470, and Hastings made it quite clear that he would not scruple to plot in the same manner against the Wydvilles. Hard words followed, but in the end, according to More, it was the Queen who backed down, agreeing to limit the King's escort to 2,000 men. Hastings signified his approval, and Dorset wrote at once to Rivers and also, says Mancini, 'to the young King Edward, that he should reach the capital three days before the date appointed' for the coronation.

  Hastings was by no means reassured by the Queen's capitulation over the King's escort. He was no fool, and had easily divined the real reason why the Wydvilles were eager to get the King crowned. He had enjoyed, says Mancini, 'a friendship of long standing' with Gloucester, of which the Wydvilles were well aware. Consequently, the present situation was particularly menacing to him. For this reason, and from sincere loyalty, he was anxious to see Edward IV's wishes respecting the protectorate implemented.

  At the time of the King's death, Richard of Gloucester was 200 miles from London at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. No-one had had the courtesy to inform him of his brother's demise, and it appears that the Wydvilles intentionally withheld news of it from him for their own purposes. Hastings, discovering this, was appalled, and took it upon himself to write to Gloucester with the sad tidings. He also sent an urgent warning to the Duke
that the Queen's party meant to oust him from power. Mancini heard later that Hastings 'had advised the Duke to hasten to the capital with a strong force and avenge the insult done him by his enemies. He might easily obtain his revenge if, before reaching the City, he took the young King Edward under his protection and authority, while seizing, before they were alive to the danger, those of the King's followers who were not in agreement with this policy.' Hastings added that he was alone in the capital and not without great danger, for he could scarcely escape the snares of his enemies since their old hatred was aggravated by his friendship for the Duke of Gloucester. Mancini says that 'according to common report', this letter was sent by Hastings after a Council meeting on 20th April, but Gloucester had received it by that date, and it is more likely that Hastings wrote to the Duke very soon after the meeting of councillors that took place around nth April.

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  Croyland implies that Hastings also confided his fears in a letter to the Duke of Buckingham.

  Henry Stafford, second Duke of Buckingham, was one of the most important noblemen in England. He came from an old and respected family that had risen to prominence in the mid fourteenth century, having enriched and advanced itself since that time by a succession of advantageous marriages with heiresses, the greatest of which was that between the fifth Earl of Stafford and Anne, daughter of Thomas of Woodstock, the youngest son of Edward III. Buckingham was twice descended from this lady, who had brought to her husband not only her father's wealth but also half the great Marcher inheritance of the Bohuns, which had been shared between two sisters: Anne's mother, Eleanor de Bohun, and Mary de Bohun, the mother of Henry V. Henvy VI had further advanced the Staffords and in 1444 had rewarded the devoted service of Humphrey Stafford with the dukedom of Buckingham and an income of £5,500 per annum, which was greater than that of any other magnate at the time. Humphrey styled himself 'the high and mighty Prince Humphrey', and he and his race were known to their contemporaries as 'sore and hard-dealing men'. They were loyal to the House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses, and the first duke died fighting for Henry VI at the Battle of Northampton in 1460. As his son had predeceased him in 1458, his inheritance passed to his five-year-old grandson, Henry Stafford, who became the second duke and a royal ward.

  Although he was a minor the young Buckingham was fabulously wealthy and could look forward to a future that held influence, power and a brilliant marriage. He owned vast lands, manors and castles in twenty-two counties, centred mainly upon Wales and the Midlands, and himself had a claim to be in the line of succession to the throne by virtue of his descent from Edward III. In recognition of this he was granted in 1474 the right to display a coat of arms 'near to the King and of his royal blood', which emblazoned the undifferenced heraldic device of Thomas of Woodstock, whose heir-general he was.

  Buckingham was only six when Edward IV became the first king of the House of York, but young as he was his loyalties remained with Lancaster. In 1464, the new queen, Elizabeth Wydville, was granted his

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  wardship, but this was little to the liking of this proud child who looked disdainfully upon his new guardian as an upstart parvenue. He was horrified, therefore, when, in 1466, the Queen betrothed him to her sister Katherine, one of those matches which so infuriated Warwick; Mancini says Buckingham was 'forced' to the marriage and despised his bride, 'whom he scorned to wed on account of her humble origin', and Buckingham himself, years later, complained he had been 'disparaged' by the union. However, he did his duty and sired three sons and two daughters, though there are indications that the marriage was never happy.

  Buckingham was eleven when he married Katherine Wydville. He spent the last years of his childhood with his brother under the unwelcome authority of the Queen, who received from the King £500 per annum for their keep, and who engaged a master scholar, John Giles, to teach them grammar.

  As he grew to maturity, the young Duke remained loyal to Lancaster, nurturing a festering hatred for the Wydvilles, whom, says Mancini, he 'loathed'. His mother having been a Beaufort, he was Lancastrian by descent as well as by family tradition. But while the deaths of Henry VI and his heir put an end to the Duke's hopes in one respect, they gave birth to a new cause in his life, that of laying his hands on the other half of the Bohun inheritance, which had belonged to Henry VI. Buckingham claimed it by reversionary right, but Edward IV had seized all Henry VI's estates and possessions, saying they were the property of the Crown. Thereafter, the Duke harboured a grudge against the King for depriving him of what he considered to be rightfully his; it was probably because of this, and his ill-concealed resentment of Lord Rivers' power in Wales, which he felt should have been his by right of his being the greatest landowner in the region, that Buckingham did not gain much advancement at court during Edward IV's reign. He graced state functions and entertainments, and supported the King in the prosecution of Clarence, himself pronouncing the death sentence in Parliament, but this benefited him very little, and he was not granted the great offices that a man in his position could expect to receive.

  This may also have had something to do with Buckingham's personal character, for he was not popular at court, nor with his tenants on his estates. He was a proud man, jealous of the power of others, and

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  ruthlessly ambitious. He lacked judgement and often acted on impulse. His friends found him to be bluff and hearty, witty and talkative -- in fact he was gifted, says More, with marvellous eloquence and had a real talent for persuasive speaking and public oration. More also tells us that Buckingham was strikingly handsome and impressive in appearance. He spoke, it appears, with a northern accent, signing himself phonetically, 'Harre Bokynham'. His motto was 'Souvente me Souvene' ('Think of me often'), a suitably egotistical device.

  By writing to Buckingham, whose hatred of the Wydvilles was famous, Hastings had good reason to believe he would secure an ally.

  The news of Edward IV's death reached his son at Ludlow on 14th April, as did the letter asking Rivers to bring his charge to London by 1st May. The news of his father's death was broken to the young King by his uncle, and as the news spread, says Rous, 'his father's friends flocked to him', to pay their respects. Rivers does not seem to have regarded the summons to London as urgent: he had made plans to celebrate St George's Day at Ludlow, and saw no reason to alter them. He also needed time to assemble the escort of 2,000 men for the journey. Mancini records that on 16th April Edward V wrote to the burghers of Lynn in Norfolk (which was near Middleton, a manor owned by Rivers) that he intended 'to be at our City of London in all convenient haste, by God's Grace to be crowned at Westminster'.

  On that same day Edward IV's body was taken to Westminster Abbey for the commencement of his funeral ceremonies, the chief mourner being his sister's son, the young Earl of Lincoln. Three days later the late King's body was buried, as he had directed in his original will, in St George's Chapel, Windsor. Gloucester, at Middleham, learned of his brother's death from Hastings' messenger, who probably arrived around 16th/17th April at the latest. The news provoked in the Duke not only grief but also alarm, for he perceived at once that if he did not act urgently and decisively he would be ousted from power by the Wydvilles. His very life might even be in danger, bearing in mind the recent precedent for eliminating a royal duke, and the Wydvilles had shown themselves to be ruthless in the past; certainly Gloucester held them responsible for his brother's execution.

  The Duke was also aware that his office of protector-designate

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  would lapse with the coronation, and that the Wydvilles were arranging an early crowning with precisely this in mind. Gloucester could foresee a Wydville-dominated Council ruling through an acquiescent king who, as his mother's son, would be no friend to himself. Nor, if this happened, was it likely that the Duke would be allowed to retain his power and vast lands in the North, for the Wydvilles could only view that as a threat to themselves. Everything that Gloucester held dear was at stake. In
fact he had no choice but to act to bring about the overthrow of the Wydvilles and seize the reins of government himself. More and other later writers did not believe that the Duke stood in any real danger at this time, but the weight of contemporary circumstantial evidence indicates strongly that the Wydvilles posed a very real threat to him and that he believed his political and personal survival were both in jeopardy.

  Gloucester began planning his coup immediately. Hastings had warned that the key to success was gaining control of the King's person, the Wydvilles' most important political asset, and the Duke recognised the good sense in this. Careful planning was essential to ensure a successful outcome, and sound support was vital. The Duke wasted no time and sent secret messages to Buckingham, Hastings and others, warning them they would be in danger if 'our well-preserved ill-willers' were allowed to remain in control of the King and the government, and asked for their help. He also wrote to many northern lords who could be counted upon to offer loyal support, and commanded them to rendezvous with him at York around 20th April.

 
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