186 The King is Alive!

It was critical that the heir to the throne, the young Edward, was tutored and governed to be brought up to be a successful king – and so Rivers was given the job, in Ludlow on the Welsh borders, and there was time. Then in 1483 the king fell ill. There's A bit of a fly by about the main players too this week – what is that stuff about the Woodvilles all about? 

186 The King is Alive!


Edward V

Edward VEdward's life didn't start that well of course – born in the Sanctuary of Westminster, with Dad overseas, a fugitive. But once things were back on track, he emerged again in 1473, when Edward was installed with his own household at Ludlow Castle. His maternal uncle Rivers was appointed his Governor; Lord Richard Grey, Edward’s half-brother his Treasurer, and Thomas Vaughan his Chamberlain. Sent away at the age of 3 – life was tough. He had civic duties too – at the age of 4, he returned to Westminster to be keeper of the realm while Edward IV was on campaign in France. Free sweets for everyone!

Edward began his formal education, under the strict guidance of rules laid down by his father King Edward IV. There's a nice letter that survives – you can see it on the War of the Roses section of my website, here

Now, we don’t get much of an insight in the young Edward Vth; just a little glimpses, through Dominic Mancini, the Italian who visited England in 1482-3 and wrote a famous description of the political events. He said of the young Edward:

‘He had such dignity in his own person, and in his face such charm that however much they might gaze, he never wearied the eyes of beholders."

Well that’s nice, isn’t it? And again:

"This context seems to require that I should not pass over in silence the talent of the youth.  In word and deed, he gave so many proofs of his liberal education, of polite, nay rather scholarly attainments far beyond his age; all of these should be recounted, but require so such labor, that I shall lawfully excuse myself the effort.  There is one thing I shall not omit, and that is, his special knowledge of literature, which enabled him to discourse elegantly, to understand fully and to disclaim most excellently from any work whether in verse or prose which came into his hands, unless it were from among the more abstruse authors.’

Essentially, Rivers seems to have done his job well, and if Mancini is to be at all trusted, here was a young man who shared Woodville's interests. At key points in 1483 when his father died, Edward was to show that he felt close to his uncles, Rivers and also Richard Grey. 

Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers

Anthony woodvilleAnthony Woodville (1440-1483) is in many ways an impressive character; a man of many parts, many talents and interests – a renaissance man, and very much more than a man obsessed by political power – this is no Warwick the Kingmaker.  As the eldest son of Richard Woodville, first Earl Rivers, and Jacquetta of Luxemburg, Anthony was the brother of the Queen Elizabeth  Woodville. Renaissance man he might have been, but the Woodville inheritance was very unimpressive in terms of income – part of the reason the peerage looked down on the Woodvilles so much. However, things were helped when he married and became Lord Scales in 1460; although his new wife legally brought him no rights to her lands, in common with the king and Duke of Gloucester, Anthony managed to bend the laws, and ended up retaining them – eventually they ended up with his brother Edward Woodville, to the loss of the heirs of the original Lord Scales. It's a point worth remembering; although Anthony Woodville is in many ways and attractive character, like any other magnate he was utterly ruthless in matters of land and inheritance – the papers of his agent apparently show him to be a hard headed business man. He became Earl Rivers when his father died at the hands of Warwick in 1469. 

Woodville interests were in some ways traditional – war, religion, family & wealth, the tournament. At the first he had some success, but was an occasional player – or at least according to his station; he was in London in 1470 when the Bastard of Fauconberg attacked, took part in Edward IV's campaign in France, was one of Gloucester's commanders in the Scottish campaign, that sort of thing. The rest, he often seemed to take a little further than was absolutely necessary – and maybe this is why he stands among the Woodville clan. In religion, he was famously found to wear a hair shirt when he died; everyone was so impressed it became an object of veneration and pilgrimage (I must remember to donate my string vest to someone in my will). And in a decade when the story is one of grasping, power mad Woodvilles, it's head was wasting valuable networking time by going on crusade and pilgrimage – in Portugal, Santiago, Rome and Italy.  

He was also a famous jouster; the most famous was in 1467 when he jousted with Antoine, the Bastard of Burgundy for 2 days Joust at Smithfield.  On the first day, when they fought on horseback, the Bastard's horse was killed; on the second, when they fought with axes, Woodville held his own and the joust was declared drawn. Next year, at the marriage celebrations of Margaret of York, he broke eleven lances with Adolf of Cleves. Despite that hairshirt thing, he was a full and enthusiastic participant in the whole pageantry of the joust; so for example in the marriage celebrations of Anne of Mowbray to Richard of York, he fought in the habit of a white hermit. 

In his literary interests, Woodville was a little more exceptional. He was clearly interested in the Italian Renaissance; he translated “Les Dictes Moraux des Philosophes” whilst in the Prince of Wales’ household and had his “The Dictes and Saying of the Philosophers” printed by Caxton in 1477, and was thus not only a writer but an earliest patron of Caxton and the new fangled invention. 

Woodville at one point said that the vicissitudes of life had led him to devote his life to God. Maybe this sense of perspective, with a tinge of fatalism was why in the second reign of Edward, he did not take up the opportunity to become the leading political figure he could have become. But in 1483 he wielded enormous influence through the job of tutor and governor of the young Prince of Wales, the future Edward V. 

In 1483, there was no sign of any animosity between Gloucester and this particular Woodville – indeed rather the opposite. Rivers had asked Gloucester to arbitrate in a dispute he had, which implies closeness and trust; Rivers was one of the commanders of Gloucester's Scottish campaign. 

2 thoughts on “186 The King is Alive!

  1. Hi David,
    I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your podcast. I learned about The History of Rome in January, and after hearing all of it, I found this podcast. I have listened to it non stop for a couple of months now, and today I finally caught up, hearing episode 186.
    All though I am Norwegian, I kinda feel like sharing in your history, as the old Norwegians used to invade all the time, then take Normandy and invade again. Definitely norse blood in England.
    Thank you very much for a great podcast. Can

  2. Ah Jorgen, we feel the same! In fact I had this DNA thing done – 23and me – my family is from the north of England so there’s 5% Scandinavian, plus a bit of Finnish in my make up.
    Hope you keep enjoying it!

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