191 The Reign of Richard III

Edward of MiddlehamUnfortunately for Richard he was never able to simply concentrate of governing the realm; the hangover of his accession, the presence of Henry Tudor abroad – these things constantly took his attention away. 

191 The Reign of Richard III

 The death of Queen Anne and rumors of a mesalliance

Richard was plagued by bad luck. In April 1484, Anne and Richard's only son, Edward of Middleham, died. His tomb is at Sheriff Hutton, in the heartland of Neville country.

‘You might have seen the father and mother…almost out of their minds for a long time when faced with such sudden grief’

Anne clearly was not going to have another child. Richard had two bastards for sure, John and Katharine, but there was no talk of any attempt to legitimise them.  Nope, the whispering was instead about the inconvenience of Anne's existence. But in fact Anne was ill; although she did her best to play her part at the Epiphany celebrations of 1484, on March 16th she was dead. 

And then the tongues really began to wag. Had she been poisoned by Richard? The Tudor historians would have us believe he had; but even the Crowland Chronicle seemed to suggest such a thing: 

"In the course of a few days after this, the Queen fell extremely sick, and her illness was supposed to have increased still more and more, because the king entirely shunned her bed, declaring that it was by the advice of his physicians that he did so.  Why enlarge?"

And the tongues continued to wag – that Richard would marry his niece, Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth. After all, it would unite the Yorkist lines, bolster Richard's legitimacy, give the Henry Tudor promise top marry her a real kick. But it's difficult to believe Richard ever genuinely contemplated such a thing – marrying his niece would surely have removed any remaining shred of credibility. But incredibly, the rumors were so strong, Richard was forced to publically deny it: 

"In the presence of many of his lords and much other people showed his grief and displeasure and said it never came in his thought or mind to marry in such a manner wise."

Really, it seemed the only thing that could wipe the account clean would be to meet and defeat his rival Henry Tudor in battle. 


6 thoughts on “191 The Reign of Richard III

  1. Second listen and it’s all coming together. I really enjoyed the way you contextualized the sources and shifted through the evidence for this episode. And, for the record, I agree with you that it was very unlikely that he was thinking about marrying his niece. What a fascinating king. Gracias David!

  2. Hi
    I’m a Yank enjoying working my way through the history of England. A couple of things.
    First, you talk about Collingbourne’s bravado at his execution as second to none. I seem to recall, however, there was an earlier episode in which a fellow was being drawn and quartered and similarly wisecracked when shown his entrails. Who was this? I cannot recall or locate on your site.
    Second, when did English law go from the burden of proof on the guilty to the state having to prove innocence? Thanks!

    1. Hi Ed, and I am afraid that I am going to fail you in both respects. On the first, I simply have a dreadful memory – once I have written something, most of it leave me! But I must say that I am amazed at the fortitude with which so many people met their deaths; records of people panicking and loosing it are very rare. It may be that the beholders felt that recording anything other than a noble death would be unkind.

      On the principle of the presumption of innocence…well… that was interesting. There;s a famous statement called the Sankey Declaration about the ‘Golden thread’ of the presumption stretching throughout English legal history…which appears to be quite difficult to sustain. Actually, the first unequivocal declaration comes not from England but in the French Declaration of the rights of man etc in 1789. Others point to a Ius Commune common throughout Europe as providing a genesis, and make the point that folk like the Pope make the point that it would be better for the guilty to walk free rather than the innocent be comnvicted. There are snippets; King Alfred states that “in cases of doubt one should rather save than condemn,” and in 1471, Fortescue had “indeed I would rather wish ten evil doers to escape death through pity, than one man to be unjustly condemned.” Another writer has the principle in most law except treason by the 18th century, others point to an Irishman called McNally who asserted the importance for all of two witnesses required for conviction (a principle established by Edward VI in England). McNally fought fiercely for the rights of United Irishmen in the courts…while selling information about them on the quiet! So like much of English law it is not very clear. However, it’s a question that turned out to be very interesting, so when I have more time I shall spend more time looking at it!

      1. Hi David. The answer finally came to me, and I thought I’d share. It was Sir Thomas Blount refusing a drink of water because he wouldn’t have a place for it (what, with no intestines). Indeed.

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