183 The Brothers York

They had a complicated relationship – Edward, Clarence and Richard; Clarence and Richard had often been left together with Cecily and Margaret while Edward was with his father. In the 1470s, things came to a head.

183 The Brothers York


George, Duke of Clarence (1449-1478) 

ClarenceGeorge’s reputation has been shaped to a degree by Shakespeare, and the famous line ‘false, fleeting, perjur’d Clarence’. Well, much as we might point out that Shakespeare was a thoroughly dull sort of chap, but anyway his job was to entertain, not give a history lesson, for once he might well be on the money. Clarence’s behaviour as a rebel with Warwick against his own brother had been outrageous; Edward had forgiven, though unlikely he’d forgotten. Clarence could have sat tight and thanks the stars for his luck; he did not such thing. The fight between Clarence and Gloucester for Warwick the Kingmaker’s inheritance demonstrated his greed, his defence of Thomas Burdett arrogance and stupidity, in his murder of Ankarette Twynho, brutality.


Richard, Duke of Gloucester (1452 – 1485)

Richard of GloucesterMore ink has been spilled about Richard, so I won’t go on. At this point, Richard has very much showed his worth to his brother. He refused to be seduced by Warwick and Clarence, stayed steadfastly loyal to Edward. He’d fought by his side at Barnet and Tewkesbury and proved himself. At 5 foot 8, relatively slight build, Richard had developed Scoliosis and therefore his shoulder may have looked higher than his left; but whatever his physical stature, he’d shown himself loyal and effective. in 1471 he was therefore handsomely rewarded by Edward and given the Neville lands in the north, and leadership in the north over Percy.

 The Warwick inheritance

Here’s a quick and easy family tree which helps illustrate the point about the Warwick inheritance

Warwick inheritance 1471


It seems a long, long time ago – so longggg… that we were last speaking of matters political of the wars of the Roses. I’ve missed it. I’ve felt like half a person. But now we are back, so shall we have a little recap? We left our noble house of York high fiving and fist pumping their way round the party circuit. They had for all intents and purposes eradicated the house of Lancaster; Margaret of Anjou was captured and under control. All the Lancastrian male heirs had been thoroughly toasted, and the only remaining imp was from the house of Tudor, the 14 YO Henry Tudor who had fled to Brittany with his uncle Jasper. All that remained now was to share the spoils among the victors and have a hoot. Now, there are going to be a lot of names in the following episode. Some of these like Gloucester and Clarence and Hastings and Anthony Woodville you will hopefully recognise. There are Others like Stanley, Richard Grey, Thomas Grey, Henry Bourchier on which you may be a bit more shakey. But fear not, gentle listeners. If you are able to access the most puissant worldwide web, and find my website, I have prepared a page to help you. If you can’t go to the website then tough, you’re on your own.
It all looked good. Edward and Elizabeth were very obviously, er, fecund. It’s not an attractive word, fecund, is it? not sure why. A bit like moist, a word to be avoided. Anyway, Elizabeth and Edward now had Elizabeth, 5 years old and keen on dancing with Dad; Mary who was 4, Cecily at was 2, and then after 3 girls had arrived Edward, an heir, who was now 1, and Margaret had just been born, at the age of 0.
Now the production line was up and running and there were more on the way – Richard would be next, then Anne, George, Catherine and Bridget in 1480. By the time Elizabeth called time, she’d made 10 children with Edward, and 2 from her first marriage. Fecund is hardly adequate.
As the dust of Tewkesbury settled, King Edward had to establish his new government; and could do so now in the full and certain knowledge that he was planning for the long term. Edward was a decisive man, a natural leader, full of energy, with a close and constant attention to the detail of government, and a traditional model of Medieval kingship, which emphasised that a king’s job was to work with his nobility to govern. He was also a party animal, with a passion for pasties. But now, it was time to reward the people who had been loyal to him, and around whom he planned to govern his kingdom.
Edward was in a completely delightful position –his authority was unchallenged and unchallengeable. Now was the time when he could dump on the Lancastrians, to any extent essentially he felt inclined. But He was a generous man, and as we have seen with Somerset, inclined to trust and give folks a second chance. So by and large, after Tewkesbury, Edward welcomed Lancastrian supporters back into the fold, back into his grace and favour. A good example, is Dr John Morton. Morton was a rather brilliant man, a real talent; Edward recognised that and was keen to use his skills for his own use, despite Morton’s very obvious allegiance to the Lancastrian cause. Morton was a lawyer, who attached himself to Edward of Westminster, Margaret and Henry’s son. He became the young prince’s Chancellor and meanwhile had held a number of religious livings, as fine an example of pluralism as you can wish for. After defeat at Towton, Morton stayed at the Queen’s side in Scotland and in Northumbria in 1462 and 3, and then remained as a staunch supporter of the Queen in exile. But no matter; after the disaster of Tewkesbury, Morton appeared to gratefully accept the hand that Edward proffered; he became Master of the Rolls in 1472, and that would be only the start of his rise.
In fact, there’s really only one Lancastrian that Edward set his face against – the mad bad Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter. Holland was married, unhappily to Edward’s sister Anne, had been with Margaret in exile, but had been part of the routs at the hands of York at both Leicester and Barnet, and had fled to Westminster Abbey for sanctuary. Edward waved this aside, removed him and put in the tower; and allowed his sister Anne to divorce him and take up with her fancy man, Thomas St Ledger. He couldn’t quite bring himself to execute him, but in the Tower Exeter would stay.
Equally, Edward did not forget his friends, the folk who had stayed by him through thin. The foremost of these was William Hastings. Just to remind you, Hastings has been solidly close to Edward, and combined closeness to Edward and power with the good opinion of pretty much everyone else which is somewhat unusual. He was, in the words of Thomas More, an
‘honourable man, a good knight and a gentle … loving man, and passing well beloved’.
Hastings resumed his office as Chamberlain of England, a post that gave him constant access to the seat of all power, the king. Hastings, nice guy though he apparently was, took himself off to the First Class carriages in the gravy train, and settled back to watch the spondulicks flood in. Everyone one knew that if you needed something doing, Hastings was your man. So you wanted Hastings to be well disposed towards you. Now you might say that you don’t care much for money, because money can’t buy you love, but in this particular instance you would be dead wrong. Religious houses made him their steward, barons sent him gifts. Richard Earl Rivers dug around the back of the sofa raided his wife’s purse and sent Hastings £26 13s and 4d; Clarence made Hastings his Chief Steward. The habit went international; King Louis of France gave him a pension of 2,000 crowns, Charles Duke of Burgundy gave him 1,000 ecus. Hastings was a man you wanted on your side; and the honours and offices that Edward heaped on him in 1471 were just one part of the way he was rewarded.
Then there is the Stanley family, the Stanley’s; erstwhile Kings of Man. The Stanleys did well; both William and Thomas Stanley were to be pillars of Edward’s regime in the north West of England and the Duchy of Lancaster, though whilst running at the same time a low level struggle with Richard of Gloucester who tried to extend his control there.
Which brings us to Margaret Beaufort. Margaret was in something of a pickle. Her son Henry Tudor was the last remaining imp, last possible challenger to the House of York. She had fortunately been married to a loyal Yorkist, Stafford which protected her. However, Stafford inconveniently croaked in 1471, which was bothersome for Margaret. She needed a protector.
Margaret Beaufort was a clever and tough political survivor. Over the next decade she effectively gained the trust of Edward, even while Edward was trying to hunt down and kill her son. Through careful work and lobbying, she even persuaded Edward, close to his death as it happens, to welcome Henry back as earl of Richmond, close to Edward’s death. But in 1471, she needed a protector, and although she and Stafford had been close, she had no time to hang around feeling sorry for herself. The man she chose as her protector was Thomas Stanley. Stanley had connections and already had children and so was looking mainly for status, which Margaret brought. So they got hitched, and Margaret began to use his connections to work towards the goal that dominated her life –protecting the rights and life of her only son, Henry Tudor.
Then there was the Queen’s family. Now obviously there’d been something of a reduction in the numbers Woodville wise, after Warwick had got hold of them and done a bit of winnowing, but there were still plenty around. There were two by Elizabeth’s first marriage – Thomas Grey and Richard Grey. Thomas Grey did well; he was made Marquess of Dorset, and to give him the lands to back up his new dignity, was given in Marriage Cecily Bonville, heir to the Bonville and Harington lands in the North and South West. You might remember the Bonville’s and their war with the Courtenays, which had rubbed out the male Bonville line. Dorset was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, which was unfortunate since he was to find himself in some complicated political situations.
Thomas Grey had a younger brother, Sir Richard Grey. He was but 14 or so in 1471, and wasn’t to enter public life until 1475 when he took part in a joust. Much of the time he would be together with his Uncle, the oldest male of the Woodville clan now that Richard Woodville had been given the Warwick treatment and shuffled off his mortal coil, gone to meet his maker, and in becoming an ex-earl of Rivers, the title Earl of Rivers had passed to Anthony. You will of course recognise Anthony – he’s not yet in the prime of his life, which of course is 52, as you will all know, he’s still a strippling of 31. But in a way he’s the most attractive of the Woodville males – renaissance man, hairshirt wearer, famous jouster. Sadly, he’d rather blotted his copy book in 1469, by naffing off on crusade when Edward was facing just the odd political problem, and Edward had therefore marked his card as unreliable – nothing terrible, not a target for retribution or punishment, just unreliable. Over the next decade Rivers would go on crusade and pilgrimage to Portugal, Italy and Rome and Santiago. He had other interests essentially, is the point I am making – God, that sort of thing. The immediate impact was that he didn’t get much out of Edward’s restoration.
However, there was a new kid on the king’s block though, who did do jolly well; Edward’s little brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester. Richard had proved himself to his brother big time- and not just in contrast to his fickle unreliable and glib brother Clarence. Richard had resolutely stayed by Edward’s side; he’d proved his military worth at Barnet and Tewkesbury. Richard of Gloucester was now just shy of his 20th birthday. We know that he was about 5 foot 8, shorter than his brother, and appeared to be of slight build. Through his adolescence he’d developed something called Scoliosis – a 3 dimensional curvature of the spine. You would have to have been very observant to notice it actually; while his right shoulder probably have been higher than the left, he would probably have been able to hide it with his clothing. The point us Yorkists are trying to make is that Shakespeare was guilty of exaggeration.
Richard was probably a worrier, probably suffered from indecision and insecurity, which is rather borne out by the portraits we have of him where he looks drawn and anxious, and meant that far from being the devious planner Shakespeare presented, he tended to act on impulse. But there was no doubt he was brave and loyal to his elder brother. And Edward valued him as much. Gloucester was effectively made Duke of the North, the successor to Warwick’s lands in the north. And he was given the lands of the Lancastrian Earl of Oxford, de Vere. But for the time being he could not give Richard all of Warwick’s lands; because all the lands in the Midlands and South now formally belonged to the countess of Warwick, the Kingmaker’s wife. Richard made his home now in Wensleydale, at the great castle of Middleham, previously the Salisbury and Neville caput. From there he ruled the north alongside the Percy Earls of Northumberland.
And also standing in the way between Gloucester and Warwick’s inheritance stood his brother, Clarence. Most of us, if we had been Clarence, would have been sobbing with relief that we’d got away with the most outrageous piece of villainy and treachery. I mean seriously, not only had he betrayed two people in quick succession and therefore declared to the world of his lack of honour and reliability; he’d also betrayed his own family. Essentially, I would have kept as quiet as possible, sat at the back, and hoped nobody remembered who I was or what I’d done, and carry out various good works in expiation for my sins.
But not Clarence. Oh dearie me no. In fact, Clarence probably felt a little miffed at how he’d missed out. Afterall, the Lancastrian Parliament of the Readeption had declared him to be 3rd in line to the throne after Edward of Westminster; now he was nowhere, after a brood as long as your arm. Clarence felt super miffed at Edward’s settlement after Tewkesbury – Clarence was able to retain his honours, but had to give up the Percy lands he’d held as the Percy family returned to power in Northumberland. He really had no cause whatsoever for complaint – he was given all the Courtenay lands in Devon and Cornwall in compensation. But this was Clarence – of course he was miffed. Plus, he had to watch as his little brother was laden down with honours and riches, that sucked. None the less, Clarence reconciled himself to the horrors of the situation, as he saw it. Because through his wife Isabel Neville, he was convinced that he was going to be even more mega rich that he was already.
Let me explain. So, Anne Beauchamp Countess of Warwick was the daughter of the Earl of Salisbury. If you remember, when she’d married Warwick the kingmaker she’d brought all those vast tracts of land from both the Beauchamps Earls of Warwick. When the Kingmaker got totalled, his Neville inheritance in the north was up for grabs, and went mainly to Gloucester, but all the Warwick, Beauchamp inheritance by law came back to her until she also popped her clogs or married again. After Barnet, Anne had hitched up her skirts and legged it as fast as she could to Beaulieu Abbey in the New Forest. By New forest, of course, we mean that it was actually 400 years old, created by Billy the conq in 1079. Despite now being over 900 years old, we still call it the New Forest when we should really call it the jolly old forest, or at least the getting on a bit forest, or the prime of life Forest. Let’s start a campaign. Anywho, Anne was ensconced in Beaulieu.
This was inconvenient, most inconvenient. Clarence was very keen to get hold of all the Countesses’s lands; because the way he argued it, The Countess’s daughter Isabel was her heir and his wife and therefpore the lands come to him; The Countess did have another daughter, Anne Neville, had been married to that Lancastrian worm Edward who’d been satisfactorily butchered at Tewkesbury, and so presumably that side of the family was now attainted and couldn’t inherit flu, let alone one of the greatest honours of the land. And anyway, he, Clarence, wanted the land. And frankly that, as far as Clarence was concerned, was as much of a reason as he needed, indeed as much of a reason as anyone should need. Gloucester wanted the lands; because he wanted to marry Anne Neville. And Edward wanted it, because he wanted to spend its income either on keeping his brothers quiet, or on wine, women and song. Really, it was most inconvenient of The Countess to be alive. Some one really ought to do something about that.
The thing is that Clarence and Richard didn’t get on. Brothers, as we all know, are something of an inconvenience anyway. Quite wrongly, Clarence appeared to think of younger brothers as a problem –whereas of course all listeners of the HoE know that it’s older brothers that have all the advantages in life. Richard meanwhile had spent his younger years watching Clarence wow everyone; he’d seen how his sister Margaret had worshipped Clarence, and now Margaret was the Duchess of Burgundy. Meanwhile Clarence with his wit and charm, resented anyone taking the attention away from him, and as he saw Edward beginning to favour Richard his fury knew no bounds. But never mind; Clarence was married to Isabel, and had taken control of Anne so that she was in his wife’s household, and had taken control of the Beauchamp lands, and possession is 9 tenths of the law. So as far as he was concerned, Gloucester could sing for it.
In what follows, there are probably two ways of looking at things. There is a love story to be written here about Gloucester and Anne – maybe it’s already been written – the Sun in Splendour perhaps? I did read it when I was about 0 or something, half a billion years ago when the planet was still cooling, but it was clearly a girl’s book about emotions and relationships and so on, so I had to keep it hidden. Anyway, there’s a love story to be written here; about two children sharing the castle at Middleham in their innocence, with Richard 4 years Anne’s senior, and therefore with some chance of looking cool. That’s just enough of an age gap for a teenage bloke to look cool. Just. A story about a teenage girl in misery, bullied and despised by her mother in law, married to an arrogant arse, but then alone and abandoned by the death of her husband, and captured by an avaricious and ambitious Clarence. Only to be rescued by her childhood friend, Richard…and so on. On the other hand there could be a different different story. There’s a story of a rivalry between two enormously rich and privileged brothers, fighting viciously over a massive inheritance, using a 16 year old girl as a helpless pawn in the game. You pays your money and talks your choice, and the one you choose will depend on you view of Richard III.
Anyway, here’s how it went, Clarence had control of Anne, and wanted it that way. Richard wanted to marry Anne, and we can believe that Anne wanted to marry Richard, whether she had any romantic feelings or not – Gloucester was probably the only bloke who could rip her from Clarence’s clutches.
So Gloucester went to Clarence and asked to see Anne. Clarence sent him away with a flee in his ear, snarling that he was in control of the Wardship and he had no intention of marrying Anne to Richard. He might have added that he had no intention of marrying her to anyone, so that he could hold on to her land.
Gloucester was not about to give up. Nothing daunted, he turned up at Clarence’s pied a terre and demanded to see Anne – Clarence haughtily denied any knowledge of her. Richard hunted high a low, and eventually found Anne – she had been hidden as a cook’s maid in the household of a friend. Rather dramatically, Richard burst in, demanded they bring Anne out and took her to sanctuary at St Martins le Grand in London
Gloucester then took his case to Edward, and the King’s Council, and the lawyers got involved.
So many arguments were, with the greatest acuteness, put forward on either side…that all those present and the lawyers even were quite surprised that these princes should find arguments in such abundance by means of which to support their respective cases
Christmas 1471 was therefore most uncomfortable in the York household, with something of an undercurrent. Edward was working on a solution. In February they went to the royal palace at Sheen, and John Paston wrote home:
Yesterday the King, the Queen and my lords of Clarence and Gloucester went to the pardon at Sheen; men say they were not all in charity with one another. What will befall men cannot say. The king entreats my Lord of Clarence for my Lord of Gloucester; and, it is said, he answers that he (Gloucester) may have my Lady, his sister-in-law, but they will part with no livelode, as he says; so what will fall I cannot say…’

Essentially, Edward had ruled in favour of Gloucester, and told Clarence that Richard must be able to woo whomever he chose. Clarence continued in snarling mode –that he could marry whoever he liked, just so long as he didn’t think any inheritance was going to come with her. And actually more than that Gloucester had to give up some of the lands he held to Clarence to sweeten the deal; all of which argues that Gloucester was following his heart at least to a degree; afterall so far it’s not an attractive deal by medieval standards; Gloucester had to be pretty much at the top of the eligible bachelor list, and he’s not getting anything more than the wife.
Anne and Gloucester were married in March 1472, and Anne was installed in Middleham. And if it had all ended there, well it might have been just a romantic story. But there was more to come. Edward was clearly looking for a way to settle all of the Warwick inheritance on his brothers, and the laws of inheritance were, frankly, in the way. The Dukes were at each other throats all the way through the early 70s; the Countess of Warwick desperately sent letters from her sanctuary trying to defend her rights, and I assume that in the background Anne Neville begged her husband Gloucester to show her mother some mercy; and in January 1473, Gloucester’s RH man James Tyrell took the countess from Beaulieu up to Middleham to be with her daughter. But it was not the start of a new dawn for the Countess. In 1474, the matter was finally settled. The act of parliament was brutal; it made the public, chilling assumption that for legal purposes, the Countess was naturally dead. The fact that she was physically alive was to be just a detail. In that case, it meant that her land would go to her heiresses, and thereby to their husbands, Clarence and Gloucester. The matter was settled. Clarence, it has to be said was still not happy, and continued to whine. The countess of Warwick spent the next few years at Middleham; some said basically as a prisoner; but there is some evidence she had freedom of action and a small household, though nowhere near what she would have had if she’d had her rightful inheritance.
It’s an interesting episode. And in a way it’s important in that it gives an insight into Gloucester’s character. Do you interpret his actions as that of a man defending Anne Neville, helping out her mother on the way, and fighting the tyranny of Clarence? Or that of someone every bit as bad as Clarence, marrying Anne Neville to get hold of her inheritance and then imprisoning her mother to make sure she could make no more trouble?
Hate it or loathe it none of the 3 brothers come out of it very well; Gloucester probably has the best chance of coming out of it well if you keep one eye closed, turn you head to one side and squint. Clarence is just a bad, nasty, piece of work with a serious entitlement problem. Edward is a king prepared to outwardly break one of the fundamental laws of property around which the medieval world revolved to keep a quiet life.
I suspect that Edward was heartily sick of the whole affair, and heartily sick in particular of Clarence. Blood is, I am reliably informed, thicker than water so fine, but again if I had been Clarence the thing to do would have been to spend some quality time on his estates I’d have thought, well out of the way, and just for a while be utterly reliable.
I imagine it will not surprise you to learn that Clarence did not take this approach. In 1473, the unreconstructed John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, descended on the south coast on England after plotting with the Kingmaker’s brother George Neville to restore Lancaster. The attempt at rebellion was a pretty miserable failure, and Oxford was captured and imprisoned, but there were sideways glances at Clarence too; had he been involved in anyway with Neville? There were questions asked, glances cast, smoke drifting around suggesting fire.
In 1476, Clarence’s wife Isabel died, and as a young man Clarence of course was looking for a suitable marriage. One of the ideas mooted was to marry the greatest heiress in Europe, Mary of Burgundy, only child of Charles and Margaret of Burgundy. This seemed eminently suitable for Clarence. This seemed eminently unsuitable to Edward, who had no desire to have an unreliable potential fratricide like Clarence with that amount of power, or to give Burgundy some future claim on the throne of England. He blocked the move therefore. And the bad blood thickened. Or more watery? Whatever.
Now, if you’d happened to be hanging around Clarence’s pram in 1476/7, you’d have been wise to wear your Helmet. Because, boy, were there toys being chucked about or what? Clarence now made a right royal a pain in the proverbial of himself. Petulantly, he rarely appeared at court, pretended to be worried about being poisoned by the king.
The households of Clarence and the King were at war as well. In the words of one chronicler:
‘Flatterers running to and fro, from one side to the other, and carrying backwards and forwards the words which had fallen from the two brothers, even if they had happened to be spoken in the most secret closet’
Then in 1477, came the case of John Stacey, though I have no information on Stacey’s Mum. Jon Stacey was an Oxford astronomer, accused of using his magic arts for evil purposes- effectively imagining the death of the king. Why is this relevant to Clarence, I hear you say? Well, Stacey and one of his associates, Thomas Burdett, were members of Clarence’s household and affinity. Burdett was further accused of circulating the writings and inciting rebellion. Edward appointed a powerful commission, which duly condemned both men to death.
I don’t know, it’s tricky. It had all the hall marks of a political trial. Clarence was obviously angry at being helpless while his proteges were taken down. But again if he’d had any sense he’d have seen the warning signs that Edward was making a point. But his pride and just maybe his sense of right and wrong were offended. He stormed into a royal council meeting in Westminster when he knew Edward was elsewhere, and had a declaration of innocence read out in the session. It was a rather public declaration of defiance.
At the same time was the horrid case of the young maid Ankarette Tywnho, which I have mentioned in a previous episode; bizarrely, Clarence became convinced that Ankarette had poisoned Isabel his wife. He bypassed the channels of royal justice, had the helpless woman her dragged before a judge and jury, browbeat and bribed the jury into a conviction; several of the jury members actually apologised to the poor woman, who was then executed. All this before any royal justices could get involved.
Edward summoned Clarence to meet him at Westminster and gave him a dressing down, about his conduct, about his perversion of the laws of England and his ridiculous politicking. For good measure, Edward invited the Mayor of London and his Aldermen along to boot to enjoy the show. And if there was one thing Clarence would have hated more than being given a dressing down by his brother, it was a being given a dressing down by his brother in front of the Mayor of London and his Aldermen. Whether or not, as he listened, Clarence realised that something fundamental had changed I do not know. But it had. Edward had had enough; Edward was now set on an irrevocable and dramatic action. He had made a decision. Clarence was taken away and placed in custody.
It was June 1477. Through the rest of the year, Clarence mouldered in jail. One account has it that the Woodvilles set to work – the Queen bending Edward’s ear that basically none of them were safe until Clarence was silenced, and her relatives helped build a case against Clarence. But really there’s no evidence, and it probably says more about the Woodvilles’ basic unpopularity than anything else. What Gloucester’s role in this was is not clear; but so far as we know, he actually argued on Clarence’s side – that’s what the only contemporary account says that mentions him at all. But all over Christmas the festivities went on while Clarence mouldered. He continued to moulder while outside a big party and tournament was organised for the betrothal of 4 YO Duke of York, heir to the throne and Anne Mowbray the 6 YO heiress to the last of the Mowbrays, as another Norman noble family finally ran into the sand. There was jousting and finery and all kinds of fun – and maybe it’s significant that Gloucester didn’t turn up to watch Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, ‘housed and armed in the habit of a white hermit’ at the joust.
At the following parliament, the grim truth of Edward’s intentions unfolded. One of the best informed chroniclers, of the abbey of Croyland, was there seeing the whole hideous story reveal itself to his increasing disbelief and horror. He wrote:
My mind quite shudders to relate what happened in the following parliament for then was to be witnesses a sad strife, waged between these two brothers of such high quality
Amazingly and uniquely, against the backdrop of the painted chamber at Westminster, Edward the King brought charges against his own brother. The charges were long and specific. Here’s a bit of it:
The duke sought to turn Edward’s subjects against him by saying that Thomas Burdett was falsely put to death and the king resorted to necromancy. He also said that the king was a bastard, not fit to reign, and made men take oaths of allegiance to him without excepting their loyalty to the king.
There was more, much more. The king ended with:
The Duke has thus shown himself incorrigible and to pardon him would threaten the common weal, which the king is bound to maintain
No one spoke for Clarence. Witnesses were brought, but the Croyalnd Chronicler couldn’t tell if they were meant to be witnesses or accusers. Only Clarence was allowed to speak for Clarence. And for once the charm and wit and intelligence that had saved Clarence was no longer enough.
He defiantly denied all the charges; he desperately demanded the right to defend his honour by combat. But Parliament had heard enough –and probably seen enough. Inded the law itself held that the king’s word, if based on his personal knowledge was, quote ‘the most perfect of records’; so who could argue since the king himself had brought the charges. The death sentence was pronounced, and Clarence led away.
Edward then dithered, faltered at the step of fratricide. But now it was the House of Commons who pushed it, and reminded Edward of his decision. And in the secrecy of the tower, Clarence was presented with a barrel of sweet wine from Greece, Malmsey wine. Presented with the wine head first and drowned in the barrel.
Well I never did. I mean we’ve all wanted to drown our brothers once in a while, only natural, but really. I mean what a dreadful waste of good wine.
Seriously, it’s not an edifying episode in the annals of York. Most modern historians seem to accept it really, and point at Clarences’s complete unreliability, arrogance, stupidity, greed and ambition and that’s all true. But it’s still brutal. Bishop Stubbs in the 19th century was less forgiving, calling it ‘the crowning act of an unparalleled list of judicial cruelties which those of the next reign supplemented but do not surpass’.
Well I suppose being a king means you have to take some nasty decisions. And there’s no doubt that Clarence was a dipstick of considerable proportions, and there was absolutely no sign of him coming to the end of his dipstickery. Many of the accusations were probably true – some of them were probably exaggerations. But there you go. necessarily brutal or just brutal? The choice is yours.



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