Richard Duke of Gloucester is born at Fortheringhay

Richard III symbology

On the second of October 1452, Cecily Neville gave birth to her youngest son at Fortheringhay Castle. Years after his death, Tudor chroniclers wrote fantastical tales about his birth. More said that she was in “much doe in her travail” and that he was born with a full set of hair and crooked teeth. There is no actual record of the birth and the chronicler of the Neville family, Rous, wrote that he was healthy and he “liveth yet”. The reason why he said this was because Cecily became pregnant again three years after and gave birth to a girl who died that same year. Also, infant mortality was high so the fact he survived was something to take into account.

At the age of seven, Richard was exposed to the realities of war. It is written that she was “despoiled” of her goods, and while this could mean rape, it could also mean that they looted her house. The latter was still a big humiliation, to see her possessions being taken by common men and soldiers.
Cecily went to the city of Coventry where Parliament was held (a parliament that became known as “Parliament of Devils”) and submitted herself to royal mercy. But at this point, tensions were too high and it was clear that only one victor could emerge from this conflict.

“Without her husband by her side, Cecily had little choice but to submit to the rule of Henry VI and was placed in the custody of her sister Anne at Tonbridge Castle in Kent.” (Licence)

Anne was the Duchess of Buckingham through her marriage to John Stafford and as such, a staunch Lancastrian. Initially Cecily took her sons with her, but in the end she decided to send them away to Burgundy.

Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou

Sarah Gristwood in her biography notes that the “comparative lenience with which Cecily was treated was the result of her friendship with Queen Marguerite” yet she also notes what the chroniclers at the time said, that she was kept “full straight with many a rebuke” from her sister. “The future prominence of Cecily’s son” Gristwood points out, referring to her eldest, Edward the Earl of March “had never looked more unlikely.”

In 1460 however, the Yorkists scored a major victory when they took control of the capital and forced Henry VI to recognize the Duke of York as his heir. Cecily was sent for and the couple were not only Duke and Duchess of York anymore, but by right they were Prince and Princess of Wales. But things took a turn for the worse on that December when Marguerite’s troops took them by surprise at Sandal Castle and killed everyone, including Cecily’s brother, nephew, and her second son Edmund, the Earl of Rutland.

It wasn’t until 1461, when Richard’s oldest brother became King, that the family finally felt secure. Edward IV made Dukes of him and George. Richard was awarded the title of Duke of Gloucester. And then the rest –as they say- is history when he decided to marry a Lancastrian widow over Warwick’s proposal with Bona of Savoy. This split the Yorkist house in two ending with his cousin Warwick’s death in the battle of Barnet, the destruction of the Lancastrian, and seven years later the execution of his brother George. And then Edward died (possibly of a cold, although accounts vary) and the crown was free for the taking. It is very possible that Richard didn’t intend to take the crown at first like later Tudor version depict, but rather like his father, gain control of his nephew since he believed he was more suited to do so then the boy’s maternal relatives who were very hated with the nobility. But as the Queen locked herself in sanctuary, and then fearing repercussion from her relatives and allies, he executed her brother and his brother’s allies; he realized things had gone too far. And once again, like his father he was going to make a move that changed the history of the dynasty.

Richard III and Anne Neville.
Richard III and Anne Neville.

He and his wife, Anne Neville were crowned on July of that year, with their only son Edward of Middleham invested as Prince of Wales later that autumn in the North.

Although the Lancastrian royal line was wiped out, one scion remained and even though some considered his mother’s line a bastard line, many still saw him as the heir to the Lancastrian cause, and Edwardian Yorkists who were not too happy with Richard’s rule fled to Brittany to join him in his exile. The youth’s name was Henry Tudor, and like Richard, he had been privy to the horrors of war at a young age.

Besides the white rose, there was the sun in splendor and although Richard used these, he also used the white boar which was known as the Ebocarum. (
Besides the white rose, there was the sun in splendor and although Richard used these, he also used the white boar which was known as the Ebocarum. (“The boar was a visaul pun on Ebocarum – the ancient Roman name for York which was particularly shortened to Ebor.

Richard ruled for over two years. And to this day, he is the hot topic of almost every conversation regarding the wars of the roses. Was he a good or bad king? Or was he a victim of circumstance?

It is more probably as one historian pointed out in an interview that he was neither. On one front we have him doing great things for the country such as improving the law courts and allowing more common people to have representation, and he was very loved in the North; on the other hand we also have him be as ruthless as any king could be in this era, and executing as many as he saw fit to keep his power.
The rumors of him poisoning his wife are of course exaggerated, he probably loved her but as King he had to think of the future of his dynasty. When their son died in 1484 and she became sick with grief (dying the following year), he was looking for someone else to marry. He publicly denied that he wanted to marry his niece, Elizabeth of York and while he could have contemplated that (at one point), it seems highly unlikely that he would have done that in the end. His intentions in the summer of 1485 reflect that, when he was negotiating for a joint marriage for himself and his niece (Elizabeth) to a Portuguese Princess and Duke.

Sources:

  • The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
  • Richard III: Road to Leicester by Amy Licence
  • Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood
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The Battle of Bosworth Field

Henry VII Bosworth

On the 22nd of August 1485, the battle of Bosworth Field was fought, making the end of the Plantagenet Dynasty and the start of the Tudor one. When the two armies met, Richard III had the advantage, mustering more than 10,000 men. Henry’s armies barely numbered 5,000. They consisted mercenaries (French, Scottish, German) and loyal Welsh and English noblemen. Previously, Richard had been woken up early requesting a Mass to be said, the rest of his men were startled by the arrival of Henry’s troops, which had arrived earlier than expected.

Richard iii
Richard’s last prayer before engaging into battle was:
“God deign to free me thy servant King Richard from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed and from all the plots of my enemies… and defend me from all evil, from the devil and from all peril present, past and to come.”
Shortly after, the two armies clashed.

Henry’s loyal supporters also included the Queen Dowager’s closest relatives, Edward Yorkists, and the Earl of Oxford (John de Vere) who was a renown Lancastrian loyalist and saw Henry as the last scion of Lancaster. He was a well seasoned warrior who studied from the best military books in history, from Roman Generals to Christine de Pizan who had also written extensively on the art of warfare. He knew how to push the enemy to the point of exhaustion and that’s exactly what he did with Norfolk’s forces. After driving a wedge through his vanguard, he allowed Henry’s infantry to push right through and slay most of his men. In addition Richard III’s ally, the Earl of Northumberland faced desertion from some of his men, and others had rebelled the day before prompting the Earl to keep himself neutral during the whole ordeal. But nothing proved more decisive than the Stanleys who switched sides the moment William Brandon -Henry’s standard bearer- fell.

“Backwards we cannot fly: so that here we stand like sheep in a fold circumcepted and compassed between our enemies and doubtful friends.”
“Backwards we cannot fly: so that here we stand like sheep in a fold circumcepted and compassed between our enemies and doubtful friends.”

Before the battle began, Henry gave his own motivational speech which comes from a secondary source, the Edward Hall Chronicle written nearly seventy years after the event, but it’s likely true. Thomas Stanley was reminded of his oath the day before, his brother William, promised him that they would join. Now both stood still, watching as the two armies clashed. According to the ‘Ballad of Bosworth’, a much later account, William scouted on ‘a mountain full high’ where he looked down ‘into a dale full dread’, waiting to see what happened. While Henry doubted his stepfather’s loyalties, Richard had no reason to. He had taken his eldest son, Lord Strange, hostage. This guaranteed Stanley’s neutrality, however some historians like Chris Skidmore have stipulated that in the confusion, George Stanley must’ve fled his captors or either they were killed in battle, which would make sense why as soon as Henry’s standard bearer (Brandon) fell, he and his brother’s forces moved in to aid him.

According to various sources, when Richard saw Stanley’s men galloping down from the hill to join Henry Tudor he cried “Treason! Treason! Treason!” He was unhorsed and killed then stripped off all his clothing and put on a horse for everyone to see.

Henry VII in the
Henry VII in the “White Queen” placing the bloody crown on his head.

The story that his crown was found in a thornbush is a myth, it was picked up by William Stanley who handed it to his brother Thomas who “unto the King Henry then went he, and delivered it, as to the most worthy to wear the crown and be their King.”

Henry VII’s rule would last twenty nine years, his son would go on in history as one of the most infamous kings, dividing historians in their opinions as to whether he was a good or bad king, and his granddaughter would become one of the greatest female monarchs in history. But it all started with the first Henry Tudor, an obscure boy who was born in an uncertain time but who was destined for great things.

Sources:

  • Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter
  • The Rise of the Tudors by Chris Skidmore
  • Henry VII by SB Chrimes
  • Foundations: England from its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors by Peter Ackroyd

A Rueful Lamentation on the Death of Queen Elizabeth by Sir Thomas More

EOY WQ y Verdadera
Thomas More was a young lawyer at the time of the Queen’s death. He wrote a beautiful eulogy for her titled “A Rueful Lamentation on the Death of Queen Elizabeth” which commemorates Elizabeth for her union with Henry, her offspring, her piety, and most of all her great lineage:

“Oh ye that put your trust and confidence
in worldly joy and frail prosperity,
That so live here as ye should never hence,
Remember death and look here on me.
Example I think there may no better be.
Yourself worth well that in this realm was I,
Your Queen but late, and lo, now here I lie.
Was I not born of old worthy lineage?
Was not my mother Queen, my father King?
Was I not a King’s fierce companion in marriage?
Had I not plenty of every pleasant thing?
Merciful God, this is a strange reckoning:
Riches, honour, wealth, and ancestry
hath me forsaken, and lo, now here I lie.

If worship worth, honour, renown
might have kept me, I had not gone;
If wit, intelligence might have me
saved, I needed not fear;
If money might have hold, I lacked none;
But oh, good God, what veiled all this gear?

When Death is come,
Thy mighty messenger, Obey we must
there is no remedy;
Me hath he summoned, and lo, now here I lie.

Yet was I late promised otherwise,
This year to life in wealth and delice.
Lo! Whereto cometh thy blandishing promise
Of false astrology and divination,
Of God’s secrets, making thyself so wise?
How true is for this year thy prophecy?
The year yet last, and lo, now here I lie.

O, brittle wealth, aye full of bitterness,
Thy single pleasure doubled is with pain.
Account my sorrow first, and my distress
In sundry wise, and reckon there again
The joy that I have had, and I dare say,
For all my honour, endured there have I
More woe than wealth, and lo, now here I lie.
Where are our castles now, where are our towers?
Goodly Richmond, soon art thou gone from me;
At Westminster, that costly work of yours,
Mine own dear lord, now shall I never see.
Almighty God vouchsafe to grant that these
For you and your children may well edify.
My palace built is, and lo now here I lie.
Adieu, mine own spouse, my worthy lord!
The faithful love, that did us both combine
In marriage peaceable concord,
Into your hands here I do clear resign,
To be bestowed on your children and mine;
Erst were ye father, now must ye supply
The mother’s part also, for here I lie.
Farewell my daughter, Lady Margaret,
God wot full of it grieved hath my mind
That ye should go where we might seldom meet;
Now I am gone, and have left you behind.
O mortal folk, but we be very blind:
What we at least fear full oft it is most nigh
From you depart I first, for lo, now here I lie.

Farewell, Madam, my lord’s worthy mother;
Comfort your son, and be of good cheer!
Take all at worth, for it will be no other.
Farwell my daughter Katherine, late the companion
Unto Prince Arthur, late my child so dear.
It booteth not for me to wail and cry;
Pray for my soul, for lo now here I lie.

Adieu Lord Henry, Loving Son, Adieu!
Our Lord increase your honour and estate!
Adieu my daughter Mary, bright and hue,
God make you virtuous, wise, and fortunate.
Adieu, sweetheart, my little daughter Kate!
Thou shalt, sweet babe, such is thy destiny,
Thy mother never know, for lo, now here I lie.

Lady Cecily, Lady Anne, and Lady Katherine,
Farewell, my well-beloved sisters three.
O Lady Bridget, other sister mine,
Lo, here the end of worldly vanity!
Now are you well who earthly folly flee
And heavenly things do praise and magnify.
Farewell and pray for me, for lo, now here I lie.

Adieu my lords, adieu my ladies all,
Adieu my faithful servants every one,
Adieu my commons, whom I never shall see in this world:
wherefore to Thee alone,
Immortal God, verily Three in One,
I me commend thy infinity mercy show to thy servant,
for lo, now here I lie.”

Tudor: The Family Story by Leanda de Lisle.

Tudor by Leanda de Lisle

An excellent book that covers ALL the Tudors! Not just the ones in movies. It starts at the beginning with the event that changed history, Owen and Katherine Valois’ meeting. And goes into all of their descendants’ (and Owen’s illegitimate son) lives, including those we rarely hear about like Meg Douglas and the Brandon sisters, and their place in English history. What I liked most about this book was highlighting the brutality and beliefs of this period that so often are neglected in place of a more clean version.

"The myth of the convivial ‘bluff King Hal’ lived on in national memory into the next century. Samuel Rowley’s Jacobean play, When You See Me You Know Me, which helped inspire Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, depicted a king going out in disguise to mingle with his subjects, getting into brawls and even being arrested. It is impossible to imagine such a play being written about Henry VII. Even today, we still prefer to remember the young and virile Henry VIII to the old, impotent tyrant. The trigger for Henry’s tyranny was – naturally – his anxieties concerning his inability to have a son with Katherine of Aragon. ‘We think all our doings in our lifetime are clearly defaced and worthy of no memory, if we leave you in trouble at the time of our death’, Henry once commented. Certain he was a ‘true’ king, he believed that his marriage must be false, and therefore cursed. After all, having no son was not only a personal blow, it also meant a possible future struggle for the crown, with his sisters and their heirs gaining a new importance in the future of the succession. These were the defining issues of Henry’s reign and the key influences on his rule: the nature of a true king, the importance of securing national concord and a stable future in blood heirs."
“The myth of the convivial ‘bluff King Hal’ lived on in national memory into the next century. Samuel Rowley’s Jacobean play, When You See Me You Know Me, which helped inspire Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, depicted a king going out in disguise to mingle with his subjects, getting into brawls and even being arrested. It is impossible to imagine such a play being written about Henry VII. Even today, we still prefer to remember the young and virile Henry VIII to the old, impotent tyrant. The trigger for Henry’s tyranny was – naturally – his anxieties concerning his inability to have a son with Katherine of Aragon. ‘We think all our doings in our lifetime are clearly defaced and worthy of no memory, if we leave you in trouble at the time of our death’, Henry once commented. Certain he was a ‘true’ king, he believed that his marriage must be false, and therefore cursed. After all, having no son was not only a personal blow, it also meant a possible future struggle for the crown, with his sisters and their heirs gaining a new importance in the future of the succession. These were the defining issues of Henry’s reign and the key influences on his rule: the nature of a true king, the importance of securing national concord and a stable future in blood heirs.”

The period these people lived in was absolutely brutal and yet there are so many things that are so universal to the human experience that as we read their stories we can relate to some of them. The Tudor monarchs get represented in terms of good and bad in the media and that always irritates me because no one is absolutely good or bad, we all have our shades of grey and in a period so divided by dynastic wars and later by religious wars, no one (absolutely no one!) was without guilt or prejudice. The monarchs did some horrible acts that if they lived today, they would be widely condemned. But they don’t live today, they belonged to another era, an era so alien to us that we still have trouble understanding it, so we create our own versions of them. The miser king. The good old Hal and his six wives. Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded and survived. The boy king. The Protestant martyr. The wicked evil Catholic and last but not least, Gloriana -who saved her country from her sister’s evil regime had brought with her a golden age. But these depictions are no more real than the porteayals we see on TV.

"The popular image of Mary I has been greatly influenced by later sexual and religious prejudice. She is often depicted as weak and with little political skill, yet she had raised military and popular support and divided her enemies with stunning success. Advertising her intention to scapegoat Jane Grey’s father-in-law, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and offering mercy to almost everyone else, Mary promised to deliver the peace and harmony Jane’s regime had failed to do. Mary hoped that by encouraging leading Protestants to go into exile she would be able to go on to restore a united Catholic country, in communion once again with Rome, but with a humanist-reformed vision. It was a devastating blow when, only six months later, Mary was confronted by the Protestant-led rebellion that became known as the Wyatt revolt. As she faced these rebels, she gave a speech on the nature of her ‘true’ kingship. If she had been crowned ‘by the Grace of God only’, so they would owe her, she said, ‘respect and due obedience solely on account of the holy unction’ of the ceremony ... As Mary continued to face Protestant treason she became even more ruthless, with the infamous burnings intended to eliminate what she perceived as a stubborn and destabilising minority. In our context we see Mary’s actions as those of a fanatic. In her context she was eliminating fanatics, and of the most dangerous kind, incorrigible rebels against God and queen. But Mary also had to work positively, to build a future, and this unravelled in the face of her infertility and declining health. She failed in her ultimate duty to produce a child and this meant, once again, that the wider family was key to the future. Mary’s preferred choice as her heir, Margaret Douglas, could not compete with the claims of Henry VIII’s second daughter and, as Elizabeth took note, it was the knowledge that she would succeed her sister that fuelled the disorder and rebellion against Mary. With the loss of Calais in the last year of Mary’s life it would be easy for her enemies to paint the young, Protestant Elizabeth’s accession as a brilliant new dawn."
“The popular image of Mary I has been greatly influenced by later sexual and religious prejudice. She is often depicted as weak and with little political skill, yet she had raised military and popular support and divided her enemies with stunning success. Advertising her intention to scapegoat Jane Grey’s father-in-law, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and offering mercy to almost everyone else, Mary promised to deliver the peace and harmony Jane’s regime had failed to do. Mary hoped that by encouraging leading Protestants to go into exile she would be able to go on to restore a united Catholic country, in communion once again with Rome, but with a humanist-reformed vision. It was a devastating blow when, only six months later, Mary was confronted by the Protestant-led rebellion that became known as the Wyatt revolt. As she faced these rebels, she gave a speech on the nature of her ‘true’ kingship. If she had been crowned ‘by the Grace of God only’, so they would owe her, she said, ‘respect and due obedience solely on account of the holy unction’ of the ceremony … As Mary continued to face Protestant treason she became even more ruthless, with the infamous burnings intended to eliminate what she perceived as a stubborn and destabilising minority. In our context we see Mary’s actions as those of a fanatic. In her context she was eliminating fanatics, and of the most dangerous kind, incorrigible rebels against God and queen. But Mary also had to work positively, to build a future, and this unravelled in the face of her infertility and declining health. She failed in her ultimate duty to produce a child and this meant, once again, that the wider family was key to the future. Mary’s preferred choice as her heir, Margaret Douglas, could not compete with the claims of Henry VIII’s second daughter and, as Elizabeth took note, it was the knowledge that she would succeed her sister that fuelled the disorder and rebellion against Mary. With the loss of Calais in the last year of Mary’s life it would be easy for her enemies to paint the young, Protestant Elizabeth’s accession as a brilliant new dawn.”
"Where Elizabeth was strikingly original was on the matter of the succession. For her subjects the provision of heirs remained central to the monarch’s duty to provide future security. But Elizabeth took her own path, having learned from the experiences of Mary I and Jane Grey. Elizabeth explained in 1561 that it was from fear of provoking unrest that she had thus far ‘forborne to match with any husband’. That held true thereafter, with Elizabeth further bolstering her position by ensuring that she had ‘no certain successor’. The royal family was, for Elizabeth, not a source of future stability, but of immediate threat. Elizabeth imprisoned her cousins, Protestant and Catholic, from Katherine and Mary Grey, to Margaret Douglas and Mary, Queen of Scots, from Margaret Clifford to Arbella Stuart. She bastardised their children, or sought their murder, she drove them to despair and even madness, so she could die a natural death, as queen, in her bed. And unlike the childless Richard II, to whom she was compared by her enemies, Elizabeth achieved that aim. The last of the Tudors was buried in the same vault as her grandparents Henry VII and Elizabeth of York in Westminster Abbey. Three years later, however, she was reburied in her sister’s vault in the north aisle of the Lady Chapel."
“Where Elizabeth was strikingly original was on the matter of the succession. For her subjects the provision of heirs remained central to the monarch’s duty to provide future security. But Elizabeth took her own path, having learned from the experiences of Mary I and Jane Grey. Elizabeth explained in 1561 that it was from fear of provoking unrest that she had thus far ‘forborne to match with any husband’. That held true thereafter, with Elizabeth further bolstering her position by ensuring that she had ‘no certain successor’. The royal family was, for Elizabeth, not a source of future stability, but of immediate threat. Elizabeth imprisoned her cousins, Protestant and Catholic, from Katherine and Mary Grey, to Margaret Douglas and Mary, Queen of Scots, from Margaret Clifford to Arbella Stuart. She bastardised their children, or sought their murder, she drove them to despair and even madness, so she could die a natural death, as queen, in her bed. And unlike the childless Richard II, to whom she was compared by her enemies, Elizabeth achieved that aim. The last of the Tudors was buried in the same vault as her grandparents Henry VII and Elizabeth of York in Westminster Abbey. Three years later, however, she was reburied in her sister’s vault in the north aisle of the Lady Chapel.”

The Tudors knew how to use propaganda as we’ve been showed by the quote above. They created this image of themselves through expensive clothing, portraits and thanks to the proliferation of new ideas and the printing press since the later half of the 1450s, that they made sure could survive into posterity. Leanda tears through this artistic visage and reveals the Tudors, their cousins and everyone around them for who they really were by using contemporary sources and archaeological evidence. What comes out are extremely complex individuals, filled with prejudice, who plotted against their nearest of kin and (in the case of the monarchs) capable of great mercy and great cruelty and no one was exempt in this. There’s a lot I didn’t know about Margaret Douglas beyondv her marriage and her son, that I found very interesting and I also recommend that once you finish this book, continue with the Appendixes. A lot of good information there.

The two last things I’ll point out is that it dispels a lot of the romantic myths about Elizabeth, Jane Grey, the wives, and so on. Jane was not a hapless victim, she was an extremely well educated youth who knew what was expected to her and in a society where women were supposed to be married to the highest bidder, Jane seems to have accepted this arrangement and bore no resentment. She was alsovery close to her father. Her last letter to him says it all. Like Mary she believed her religion was the true faith and encouraged her father to go fight for her and angrily told her sister and former tutor that if they converted to Catholicism then they would go to hell and called the people to arms.

"Mary didn't want it to be remembered that Jane had once had serious backing, while Protestants were later embarrassed by their treasonous support for Jane against the Tudor sisters -not just Mary but also Elizabeth, far better for everyone to treat Jane's reign as a small aberration engineered by John Dudley in Cambridge."
“Mary didn’t want it to be remembered that Jane had once had serious backing, while Protestants were later embarrassed by their treasonous support for Jane against the Tudor sisters -not just Mary but also Elizabeth, far better for everyone to treat Jane’s reign as a small aberration engineered by John Dudley in Cambridge.”

Mary I received great support, even by some of the Protestant elite and her initial policies were very flexible where religion was concerned but they became strict on the aftermath of the Wyatt rebellion. A lot of her accomplishments with the navy, in education, financing were carrued out by her sister who as Mary I started with a very flexible establishment but became stricter once rebellion broke out. And last but not least she rehabilitates Margaret Beaufort who’s been the subject of endless trashing thanks recent portrayals in the media. Margaret was pious but so was everty other woman in the period known as wars of the roses. Orphaned from her father when she was just a bab, Margaret became very close to her mother and half sibling. Interesting in education, she funded and created colleges and was the patron of many scholars. Her son, the first Tudor monarch was also very learned and in contrast with the skewed image we have of him in fiction, he was a man who loved to laugh, gamble and engage in many lively pastimes.

“Tudor” is an engrossing biography of mammoth proportions. I learned a lot about Margaret Douglas, the other unknown Tudors as well as the lives of their descendants and how close they were to their royal cousins, or in what way they influenced events. But it is ironic, as the author points out, that it all started with an accidental misstep, an accidental meeting between a royal French widow and a handsome, dashing Welsh steward whose romance changed the course of history forever. Spanning over two centuries, this book chronicles the life of every descendant, whether he or she played a major role or not. Unlikely  Kings, Queens, bastard Princesses and pretenders, family intrigue and treachery. This book has it all and although the Tudor line officially died out, it did not die out completely. Mary Queen of Scots married her cousin Henry Stewart. Both descended from Henry VII’s eldest daughter, Margaret Tudor and their son was his grandmother (Margaret Douglas) number one priority, and she and her husband battled for his safety and his rights. Although Mary and Margaret Douglas died, their line lasted. Margaret’s jewel depicts her grandson wearing the crown of Scotland and England, all joined as one -a prediction which came true. Through imagery, the Tudors rewrote history and bolstered their claim and increased their power, and they were also vicious in doing it.

Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones.

Hollow Crown/Wars of the Roses

Chronicling the heraldic rise of the houses of Lancaster and York to the house of Tudor, the Hollow Crown is a tale of glory, betrayal, triumph, sadness, and lastly rewriting history.
Dan Jones wasn’t kidding when he said this is the real game of the thrones. In one of the chapters he includes the gruesome detail of a band of brigands fighting during the English occupation in France, kidnapping, murdering, torturing and raping women and one scene was so vivid that (believe me!) surpasses anything seen on television.

Bishops, archbishops murdered, noses cut off, widows wailing as their loved ones are hacked to pieces and last but not least a mother takes her two children hand in hand as she goes on to plead for the warring Queen, Margaret of Anjou (who has issued warrants against her sons, husband, brothers and nephew) for mercy, trying to escape the danger of the villages near Ludlow as she sees many more women being despoiled of their goods and others of their dignities right in front of her and her two sons, George and Richard. Cecily Neville, Duchess of York had the good fortune of enjoying a good relationship with the Queen yet nothing could save her husband and second eldest son and two brothers when they returned to England and forced parliament and the king to name the Duke of York, Henry VI’s heir.

On December 30, a day that would live in infamy for the Yorkists, their patriarch Richard, his son Edmund and his most important brother in law, the earl of Salisbury and his younger brother, were caught by surprise by Lancastrian forces. The way Dan Jones narrates this chapter is done in such a way that you are in suspense as you are reading of Edmund Plantagenent trying to make his way to sanctuary alongside his tutor and priest, only to be caught by one of the men whose father Edmund’s father killed and in something reminiscent of the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones, the man (Lord Clifford) stepped down from his horse and sent his dead father’s regards “As your father slew mine” then “drew his dagger thrust it through his heart. The blood debt of St. Albans had been paid”. There are more examples of his merciless bloodshed from Henry VI mysterious death -which was likely murder under the command of Edward IV, to weeks before the gruesome battles that wiped out all the Lancastrian threats -except for one- Barnet and Tewksbury where the King’s cousin and former staunch supporter, the earl of Warwick had been killed and then stripped down of his clothing and paraded naked through the countryside and Edward of Wesminster (who was proving himself to be like his grandfather, the great Henry V) and Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset killed in the latter battle with Edward and his brothers breaking the rules of sanctuary and dragging Edmund and his associates from the church he was hiding in and mercilessly executing him. And yet, the wars of the roses is also a story of great things and good intentions gone awry. Richard Duke of York believed he was more entitled to the privilege and positions bestowed on Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou’s favorites (de la Pole and Beaufort) and that he could do a better job than them, unfortunately his good intentions were lost when he became mad with power and believed that the only way he could rescue England from perdition was by declaring himself king (a bad move which even his closest associates thought was ridiculous); after her partially got what he wanted, Margaret (a formidable woman whose appearance in the book is tremendous, a well educated, and capable leader who had the great example of both her grandmother and mother taking positions of power during her father’s absence or imprisonment, and likewise she wanted to do the same with the same good intentions for her husband’s House) turned the tables on him by defending her only son’s right to inherit his father’s crown and her forces slew him and in his in laws. But this only provoked the Yorkist and what happened afterwards as they say is all history. Likewise, Richard III, proved to be his father’s son. The youngest of Cecily and Richard’s three surviving sons, he believed it was his right to govern the realm in his nephew’s minority and saw the favors bestowed upon the Woodvilles (who, despite their good administration and military leadership) as inadequate and unfair. He was the late king’s loyal brother and had stood by him in all things, when their cousin Warwick and brother George rebelled against him, he didn’t and he had waged war against Scots forces, defending the English borders but his brother’s will (which is now lost to us) appointed the Woodviless to equal positions of power, he was justly angry. He intercepted Rivers and Richard Woodville (Elizabeth Woodville’s second eldest son by her first marriage) and then along with others had them killed but as his namesake he faced a great problem in a king who wasn’t going to bend to his will. 

Richard’s decision to depose his late brother’s brood by declaring the illegitimate through his priest Shaa the previous man was the first of his many acts that mirrored his brother’s ruthlessness of disposing of rival claimants. The princes likely were murdered by Richard, though not by himself, someone closest to him -as they began to be seen less and less to quote from contemporary sources after the summer of ’83 until they disappeared altogether in the autumn of that year. Unfortunately for Richard, this created a lot of hostility towards his reign and after his son and wife died, the way was clear for Henry Tudor who, in ordinary circumstances, would have NEVER been considered as a serious claimant to the throne but Richard III’s accession and the loss of his son and wife changed everything.

The battle of Bosworth fought at Ambion Hill has gone down in Tudor history as a sign of divine providence and perhaps it was but more than that, it was thanks to Henry’s uncle’s supporters in Wales where he had build a power base and angry Edwardian Yorkists, Woodvilles and staunch Lancastrians and of course the Stanleys that helped him win the crown. What came after that was a Tudor creation -the double rose or Tudor Rose. Red and white to symbolize the union of both houses of Lancaster and York and the end of the bloodshed but the bloodshed was far from over. When Henry became more insecure after his son and later his wife and newborn daughter died, he turned his eye on the de la Poles whose Yorkist came through their mother Elizabeth Plantagenet (second eldest daughter of Richard and Cecily Neville) and two of these who escaped were actively engaged in plots against the king whom they had previously served. It wasn’t until his son, Henry VIII that the “White Rose” as the last de la Pole nicknamed himself, was squashed during the battle of Pavia when he fought alongside Francis I . The end of the last “white rose” would have brought stability to the Tudor monarchy had it not been for the religious squabbles that became a large part of the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth century. The more powerful white rose descendants were through Margaret Pole (daughter of George, Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville) and when they decided to remain loyal to their faith, they came under Henry’s radar and it wasn’t a matter of whether they were guilty or not as Jones supposes, but the fact that their faith and their Yorkist blood posed a threat to the king. They too tasted the cruel fate that befell their previous ancestors when he last granddaughter of Richard Duke of York was hacked to pieces in 1541.

Dan Jones explores the myth behind this artifice of Tudor propaganda, a successful device that conjured the illusion of peace and the union of two warring dynasties. But the truth as he exposes in his book, is that this conflict was far more complex and it did not start at all dynastic. Furthermore, the red rose was never the official symbol of the Lancastrian royals, and the white rose -although it did become for the Yorks- wasn't the only device they used. With these two however, a new term arose:
Dan Jones explores the myth behind this artifice of Tudor propaganda, a successful device that conjured the illusion of peace and the union of two warring dynasties. But the truth as he exposes in his book, is that this conflict was far more complex and it did not start at all dynastic. Furthermore, the red rose was never the official symbol of the Lancastrian royals, and the white rose -although it did become for the Yorks- wasn’t the only device they used. With these two however, a new term arose:
“The exact phrase the wars of the roses does not appear before the nineteenth century but the image is there virtually from the 1480s clear in the Tudor Rose (this red and white rose) that’s supposed to show York and Lancaster united. Is there in the front piece of books in the royal library, it’s there at Elizabeth I’s coronation where she turns to Penchant Street during her procession from the Tower to Westminster Abbey. The first pageant she sees are rosebushes with the red and white roses united, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and the rest of the Tudors as the ones that fixed the wounds of the sixteenth century. So the idea is there ‘the wars of the roses’.” (BBC Podcast interview)


Dan Jones’ style of writing is very provocative starting by his introduction, detailing Margaret Pole nee Plantagenet’s execution to the epilogue when Elizabeth I, proving to be her grandfather and father’s granddaughter and daughter respectively uses the same motif once more for her coronation and has an epic poem telling the crowds that the Tudors are not just the product of the union of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York but a different dynasty altogether favored by God and thus then as the bard would say, they get to tell their tale.

Illustrated Kings and Queens of England: A great book to get people started on the history of the English Monarchy

Illustrated_kings_and_queens_of_england
Illustrated Kings and Queens of England by Claire Ridgway, Timothy Ridgway and Verity Ridgway. This an easy, accessible and fantastic read. Very comprehensible and straight to the point. And albeit it is very short, it has all the important details, grounded in fact and well researched that dispel the myths about many of the English Kings since Alfred the Great of Wessex who was the first who proclaimed himself King of the Anglo-Saxons or England.

Everyone who is a teacher or has a daughter, cousin or sibling whom she or he wants to get started on the period, should get them started with this book. You will enjoy it. I devoured it one day. I could not put it down. I don’t know if I am going to go down in to the field of education, but if I continue down the path I am heading, this is the book I will be recommending to my students.

The book starts with a short summary of the first known human settlements on Great Britain then it moves to a quick overview of the Isles occupations by later groups such as the Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, etc to the point that it starts from Alfred of Wessex. As stated, Alfred “the Great” of the kingdom of Wessex was the first of the Anglo-Saxon kings who is recognized as the King of he English, because he called himself so. From there it moves to all the Kings and Queens to the present Queen Elizabeth II.
Filled with interest tidbits and details, this book doesn’t disappoint.