The political talk over the last few days is overwhelming and to be honest, I have had my fill of it, so I thought I would talk about a different parliament today.
The parliament of 1483.
This was the parliament who, on this day in that year, offered the crown of England to Richard III, after studying the evidence of Bishop Stillington.
He had come first to Buckingham and Richard (history is unclear which was first) with his evidence about the marriage he had officiated at many years earlier, between Richard’s brother Edward and a certain young woman by the name of Eleanor Talbot. We do not know exactly what evidence he offered to parliament as all evidence along with Titulus Regis, the parliament’s findings on the matter, were destroyed by Henry VI when he came to the throne. It must have been strong enough evidence for the parliament to declare the marriage of the former king and Elizabeth Woodville to be null and void and their children to be bastards. Admittedly, the Woodville clan were not the most popular people in the country and there could have been some in parliament who simply wanted rid of them, but I am sure that was not the reasoning for every single person in that parliament. There must have been some evidence to back up the Bishop’s claims !
It has been said that the same Bishop also took this evidence to George of Clarence a few years earlier, who then took it to the King and confornted him. There is proof that Clarence and the Bishop were then imprisoned in the Tower of London. This resulted in George’s execution, though the Bishop was released a few months later. Did Edward kill his brother because he knew of his dirty little secret? After all, a secret marriage was not a strange thing for Edward to do, that was how he married Elizabeth Woodville too. Maybe there were other ladies also, it has been mooted that he could have gone through sham weddings with at least two other women, simply to get them into bed !! Of course, if Clarence had found out this juicy piece of gossip, it of course made Clarence into the legal heir to the throne after his brother, and after the ambitions he had shown in previous years, Edward must have seen him as a threat. Could that have been the reason for his ‘private’ execution?
But returning to Richard, he had been given the precarious job of being Protector of the realm for the minority of his nephew Edward, upon his brother’s death. Many think he rushed to London to take control of young Edward and then take the throne, but he actually waited long enough in the north to attend a memorial mass for his brother at York, before travelling south.
It is clear that the Woodville clan were not keen on Richard’s new post and prepared to get the young boy to london and crowned before Richard could get there. Though many battles on behalf of his brother helped Richard to plan ahead and intercept the journey of the new King from Ludlow to London. Some say an attempt on Richard’s life was made on this journey and that is why some of the young boy’s entourage was imprisoned and eventually executed, though there is no proof for this.
It is true that the dowager Queen then fled to Westminster for sanctuary, with her younger son and daughters. Her reasoning for this is unclear. She had no reason to fear Richard, he had been a loyal supporter of his brother for his whole life, had never said a word against the Queen, unlike Clarence. Did she fear he knew of Edward’s secret as Clarence had done? She took all of her jewels with her, some say most of the royal treasury, maybe she was hoping to bargain for safety or maybe planning her escape to the continent, as one of her Grey sons had been sent to take control of a ship.
Richard and Buckingham brought the young King to London and put him into the luxury of the royal apartments at the Tower. Most people forget that the Tower was actually a royal palace at this time, not simply the prison it came to be thought of during Tudor times. There is every evidence that the royal apartments there were very well appointed at that time and he had servants, he was not a prisoner. Both Richard and Bickingham paid fealty to young Edward as the new King, there was no sign of any intention to unseat him from the throne at this point.
A coronation was planned and the King’s council were called to order. A parliament was called to proclaim the King and Richard’s protectorate. Still there were no signs of any planned usurpation.
The dowager queen was convinced to send her younger son into the care of the protector too, alongside his brother. Here, I diverge from many beliefs, as I am a mother too, I wonder how she convinced herself to let the boy go if she thought Richard was a danger to any of her children. Some think she replaced the boy with another (a la Philippa Gregory), which is a possibility I suppose, though young Richard had spent time at court, so more of the nobles would have recognised him than the young Edward, who had been sent to live at Ludlow from a young age.
Both the boys were placed in the royal apartments to prepare for the coronation. It was traditional at the time, and for a time during the Tudor days too, that the monarch spent the night before their coronation at the Tower. The boys were allowed to play and practise archery in the gardens of the Tower and there is evidence that they were seen doing this. They had a reasonable amount of servants and the guards that were necessary for the King and his heir. Still no sign of aspirations to take the crown.
At some point between this time and the planned date of the coronation, Bishop Stillington presented himself to Richard and Buckingham, then to parliament. The proofs were studied and on this day, the parliament presented itself before Richard, it is said to have been at Crosby House in London, and offered him the crown in place of his nephew.
It is said that he reluctantly accepted, though this could very well have been staged to appear as such. He already knew of Stillington and the evidence regarding his brother’s marriage, so it is hard to imagine that he was surprised by this offer.
The boys and the girls still in sanctuary with their mother, the dowager queen, were all proved to be bastards and Richard became King Richard III. The story from there is for another time.