Contemporary Sources

On the Richard III section, I have put a few pages with contemporary content- there are links below so you can use this as a contents page, as well as the sources below. These are:

  • Extracts from ‘The Occupation of the throne of England by Richard III’ by Dominic Mancini, an Italian visitor who witnessed the events in London in 1483. 
  • The Second Continuation of the Crowland Chronicle – extract of content covering the death of Edward IV to the coronation of Richard III. This is the other main contemporary, eyewitness account.It appears to have been written by a senior civil servamt, who would have seen many of the goings-on behind closed doors. 
  • Polydore Vergil and the Historia Anglia – extract covering April – July 1483.  The start of the Tudor histories – deeply hostile to Richard but rattling good read.
  • Thomas More and his unfinished History of Richard III – more Tudor history, again a rattling good read and probably a chance to read the view of John Morton, Bishop of Ely, as well as one of the great scholars of the age. 

Then here are three more snippets below to add grist to the mill;

  • letters from Richard of Gloucester asking for reinforcements
  • Letters from Simon Stallworth recording he atmosphere in London in June 1483- a particular favourite
  • Extract from the Chronicles of London for 1483

1) Gloucester’s letters to the north 

In June, probably June 10th or 11th, Gloucester wrote to his friends in the north. Their tone is fascinating – panicky, dramatic. This is just before Gloucester takes action against Hastings, Morton and Rotherham at the infamous council meeting of 13th June. Are they evidence that Gloucester has, or believes he has, discovered a plot against him? The panicky tone adds weight to that view. Another possibility is that Robert Stillington has indeed come to him and told him that Edward IV’s children, including Edward V, are illegitimate; he is now set on a path by necessity to take the throne, and feels the need for  greater reinforcement because he knows there’ll be trouble? Or is it simply an ambitious man worrying that he has not enough men to drive through  his usurpation of the throne? 

Medieval LettersIncidentally, the letters also suggest something of the north-south divide reflected in the Crowland Chronicles. The north is Gloucester’s ‘hood where he feels secure; while in London they appear to fear the influx of alien men from the North. 

Letter to the “Mayor, Aldermen, and Commons of the city of York” 

Right trusty and well beloved, we greet you well, and as ye love the weal of us, and the weal and surety of your own selves, we heartily pray you to come unto us to London in all the diligence ye can possible after the sight hereof, with as many as ye can defensibly arrayed, there to aid and assist us against the Queen her blood adherents, and affinity, which have intended, and daily doth intend, to murder and utterly destroy us and our cousin the duke of Buckingham and the old royal blood of this realm, and as it is now openly known, by their subtle and damnable ways forecasted the same, and also the final destruction and disinheriting of you and all other inheritors and men of honour, as well of the north parts as other countries, that belong to us; as our trusty servant, this bearer, shall more at large show you, to whom we pray you give credence, and as ever we may do for you in time coming fail not, but haste you to us hither.

Letter to Lord Ralph Neville 

To My Lord Nevill, in haste,

My Lord Nevill, I recommend me to you as heartily as I can; and as ever ye love me and your own weal and security, and this realm, that ye come to me with that ye may take, defensibly arrayed, in all the haste that is possible, and that ye give credence to Richard Ratcliffe this bearer, whom I now do send to you, instructed with all my mind and intent.

And, my Lord, do me now good service, as ye have always before done, and I trust now so to remember you as shall be the making of you and yours. And God send you good fortunes.

Written at London, 11th day of June, with the hand of your heartily loving cousin and master


2) The Stonor Letters

These are two letters written in 1483 from Simon Stallworth to sir William Stallworth. Simon Stallworth was a canon and servant of Bishop Russell, who had just been appointed to be Chancellor by Gloucester, the StonorLord Protector. 

The first was written on 9th June. (Foolishly, I have tried to update the English where I can). It relates that there are goings on – but it’s reasonably optimistic and calm. Note that it says nothing about any conversations Gloucester might have had with any royal council about any news that Robert Stillington may have brought him about the legitimacy of Edward V. The coronation is still planned to go ahead on 22nd June. 

Simon Stallworth to Sir William Stonor, 9th June 1483

Master Stoner, after due recommendations, I recommend me to you. As for tidings since wrote to you we her noun news. The Queen keeps still Westminster, my lord of York, my lord of Salisbury with other mo which will not depart as yet. Where so ever can be found any godyse of my lord Marquess it is taken. The Priory of Westminster was and yet is in a great trouble for certain goods delivered to him by my lord Marques. My lord Protector, my lord of Buckingham with all other lords, as well temporal as spiritual, were at Westminster in the council chamber from x to ij, but there was none that spoke with the Queen. There is great business against the coronation, which shall be this day fortnight as we say.

When I trust you will be at London, and then shall you know all the world. The King is at the Tower. My lady of Gloucester come to London on Thursday last. Also my lord commends him to you, and gave me in commandment to write to you, and prays you to be god Master to Edward Johnson of Thame.  He was with my lord, and sued to be made a denyson for her of the payment of this subsidy: and my lord send to Jeves the clerk of the crown and saw the commission and schedule to him that he should pay but vj s. viij d. for himself: and so were he better to do then to be made denyson, which would cost him the third part of his goods. And as for such as have troubled with in the Lordship of Thame my lord will be advised by you at your coming for the reformacion, if you take note or you come: for he thinks that they shall be punished in example of other. And Jhesu preserve you. In haste from London by the hands of your servant, the ix day of June.

Simon Stallworthe.

To the right honourable Sir William Stonor, Knight

The second is very different. There are more arrests, more trouble and great uncertainty. Hastings is dead, Moton and Rotherham in the Tower – the optimistic line ‘I suppose they shall come out’ is struck through. Buckingham has taken over Hasting’s men. ‘Foster’is held – Foster was a lawyer with connections to the Woodvilles. The letter is the only contemporary reference to Jane Shore’s arrest; some have suggested that maybe she had been a go-between for Hastings  and the Woodvilles in the construction of a plot against  Gloucester (the Marquis of Dorset also being her lover). 

Susan Higginbottom is much better at this sort of thing than I – she does a great translation on her blog you can see here

Simon Stallworth to Sir William Stonor, 21st June 1483

Worshipful Sir, I commend me to you, and for tidings I hold you happy that ye are out of the prese, for with house is much trouble, and every man doubts other. As on Friday last was the lord Chamberlain headed soon upon noon. On Monday last was at Westminster great plenty of harnest men: there was the deliverance of the Duke of York to my lord Cardinal, my lord Chancellor, and other many lords Temporal: and with him met my lord of Buckingham in the middle of the hall of Westminster: my lord protector receiving him at the Star Chamber Door with many loving words: and so departed with my lord Cardinal to the Tower, where he is, blessed be Jhesus, mery. The lord Liele is come to my lord protector, and awaits upon him. It is thought there shall be xx thousand of my lord protectour and my lord of Buckingham’s men in London this week: to what intent I know not but to keep the peace. My lord hath much besynes and more then he is content with all, if any other ways would be taken. The lord Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Ely are yet in the Tower with Master Oliver Kynge. [I suppose they shall come out nevertheless].*. [A line has been drawn through these words in the original.] There are men in their palaces for sure keeping. And I suppose that there shall be sent men of my lord protector to these lords places in the country. They are not like to come out off ward yet. As for Foster he is in hold and meue for his life. Mistress Shore is in prison: what shall happen to her I know not. I pray you pardon me of more writing, I am so sick that I may not well hold my pen. And Jhesu preserve you. From London the xxj day of June by the hands of your servant.

Simon Stallworthe.

All the lord Chamberlain’s men become my lords of Buckingham’s men.

To the right worshipful Sir Willm. Stoner, knight


3) The London Chronicles

The London Chronicles were compiled by a variety of sources; I’ve taken a snippet from 1483 edited by Charles Kingsford in 1905. Good luck with the translation. 

This yere dyed kyng Edward the IVth at Westmynster, the Obitus ix day of Aprill. when he had Raygned xxii yere full and …as moche as from the IVth day of March vnto the IXth day of Aprill. And from London BridgeWestmynster the corps was caried solempnely vnto Wyndesor, and there buryed, where before he had provided his buryell. Vpon whos Sowle god haue mercy.

And anoon aftir his Deth Edward his son, …was proclaymed kyng by the name of Edward the Vth. And comyn to London ward, awaytyng vpon hym the said lord Marques other dyuers gentilmen, At a Towne named Stonyng Stratford met with hym the Duke of Glowcetir, the Duke of Bokyngham, with a greate company, and anoon dischargid the lord Marquys and suche as were abowte the kyng, and took the Guydyng of hym theym silf. And so from thens brought hym vnto London ; and the iiijth day of May he cam thrugh the Cite, ffet and met by the Mayr and the Citezeins of the Cite at Harnsy park, the kyng Ridyng in blew veluet, and the Duke of Glowcetir in blak cloth, like a mourner; and so he was conveid to the Bysshoppys palaes in London, and there logid.

And Quene Elizabeth was in Westmynster in Sayntuary, with the Duke of York and the Remenaunt of her childer, beyng Doughters. And a none after the Duke of Glowcetir went to Westmynster, and took with hym tharchebisship of Caunterbury ; where by fayre meanes, and for trust that the Quene had in tharchebisshop, which said Bisshop thought nor entended none harme, she delyuered to theym the Duke of York, a child abowte the age of vij yere ; whom the said Duke conveyed vnto the Tower, and there caused hym to be kept with the prynce, his brother.

And this doon, was provicion made for the Coronacion of the kyng, which men demed to haue been theldest son of kyng Edward the IVth. And this tyme of provysion for the Coronacion was the lord Ryvers, which before tyme had the prynce in guydyng, the lord Richard the Quenes son, and Thomas Vaughan, with Richerd Hawte, beheded at Pounfret. And the xiijth day of Jun the the lord ^ Dxike of Glowcctir, sodeynly withoute Jugement, cawsid the lord Hastynges, Chamberlayne of England, to be beheded within the Tower. And forthwith sent the Bisshoppis of Ely and York in to Walys, there to haue been prysoned.

And vpon the son day after was declared at powles Crosse, that kyng Edwardes childern wer not Ryghtfull Enheritours vnto the Crowne, but that the Duke of Glowcetir’s title was bettir than thers. And vpon the Tuysday folowyng cam the Duke of Bokyngham vnto Guyldehall, and there shewed vnto the Mayr and his brithern and to a greate multitude of the Citezeins the title of the Duke of Glowcetir, that he had vnto the crowne, excityng the people to take hym for their kyng. And vpon thursday aftir, the said possession Duke of Glowcetir with a greate company of lordes and Gentilmen, with also the Mayr and the Craftes, went vnto Westmynster, and there toke possession of the Regalite sittyng in Westmynster halle ; wher vpon his right hand satte the Duke of Northfolk, and vpon that other hand the Duke of Suffolk.

And he, there so sittyng, called byfore hym alle the Juges of the Temporall lawe, gyuyng theym straitely in Commaundement to execute his lawes Justly and indifferently to euerych persone aswell to powre as Riche. And aftir departed in to the kynges palays, and ther was loged. And the said Duke was with queue Anne his wif at and in Westmynster Chirch crowned Coronado with greate solempnyte of many states and gentilmen, the vjth day of July. In this season Escaped the lord Marquys Dorset many and greate Jupardies, for whom kyng Richard made narowe and besy serche. And anoon aftir his coronacion he Rood Northward, and did Execucion there vpon certayne extorcioners and Riattours, how well that the Northyrn men had been at London at the tyme of his Coronacion vpon the numbre of iiij m men. Also this yere his son was creat prynce at York, and his bastard son was made Capitayn of Caleys.

Leave a Reply