The Armitage / Richard III rumble, Week 5!


Catch up on all the news relating to the disposition of Richard III’s mortal remains at the King Richard Armitage fan initiative here. I found interesting that even now, there are new entries into the fray. There was an interesting rumor this afternoon, but I’ve been asked to wait to discuss it, so I will. Keep your eyes on the King Richard Armitage fan initiative page for the latest updates.

Check out the beginning of Wand Week 2012 there as well (see previous details). I’m blogging there about witchcraft, magic, spells, and all that Halloweeny stuff there this week. Was Richard III really threatened by witchcraft?

Back to where they should inter him. Personally, I favor Cdoart’s proposal to bury him in … wait for it … Bavaria!

Finally, at Fly High! Maria Grazia explores Richard III in the historical novels of Alison Weir, who’s just published a new one on Catherine, the younger sister of the ill-fated Jane Grey and who was imprisoned herself by Elizabeth I for her clandestine marriage to Edward Seymour. I haven’t read any of Weir’s novels, but I loved her account of the political demise of Anne Boleyn, which is the closest I’ve ever seen a popular work come to showing readers what historians actually do with their sources.


And now, to this week’s group read of Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour. As always, directions to follow the chat on Twitter or FB are found at the end of this entry.

[Left: the Neville armorial]

Last week: We were embroiled in Warwick’s second attempt to wrest control of England from Edward, with the defection of John Neville from Edward‘s camp to Warwick‘s and the flight of the royal brothers to Burgundy (TSIS, Book I, ch. 16). We witnessed various reactions to the readeption of Henry VI (ch. 17) and to the birth of the future Edward V (ch. 18) as well as hearing discussions that took place before the marriage of Anne Neville and Edward of Lancaster (ch. 19) during Edward and Richard’s Burgundian exile (ch. 20).

[Right: Walmgate bar, through which Edward IV entered York in March, 1471.]

This week: We begin (ch. 21) with Charles the Bold‘s about-face regarding Burgundian support for Edward’s campaign to regain his throne, seen through the eyes of Philippe de Commines and through Edward and Richard’s sister, Margaret of York, Charles’ third wife. Once Charles’ support has been granted — equally in response to French aggression against Burgundy as to rumors that royal brother George / Clarence is planning to switch sides, Margaret pleads with Edward to reconcile with George, something Edward already plans. Reactions to Edward’s landing at Ravenspurn (Yorkshire) are the topic of ch. 22, in which Cecily Neville receives the news at a Lenten sermon in London and passes it on to Elizabeth Woodville in sanctuary; Warwick reacts from the distance of a few months, while contemplating the possibility of George’s betrayal. The city leadership of York (ch. 23) negotiates over opening its gates to Edward; while we await the decision, Rob Percy, Richard’s childhood companion, ponders the terror of waiting and describes Richard’s nerves during the almost-failed landing and afterwards. York admits Edward, who promises to take an oath of loyalty to Henry VI. This decision grants legitimacy to the dissimulating Edward, who confronts the Lancastrian forces at Coventry (ch. 24), commanded by Warwick, now reflecting over John Neville’s decision not to engage Edward’s forces and the non-support of the Lancastrian nobles, who are hostile to his ally, Marguerite and to France. George’s army joins the Yorkists and the brothers celebrate a tense reunion. Finally (ch. 25), Edward returns to London to put the curiously fey Henry VI back in the Tower. This week’s reading ends with Edward’s reunion with Elizabeth; evidence of continued tensions between Richard and Elizabeth’s Woodville children; and three reunions with Cecily — Richard’s (tender); George’s (unsuccessful); and Edward’s (triumphant).

Here are the poll results to last week’s silly question. A clear majority wants to see that darn old kiss! (Okay, I love watching Richard Armitage’s kisses, too.) Mine was the only vote for the hair. I hope you enjoyed that poll, because THERE IS NO ROMANCE TO DISCUSS THIS WEEK. Sadly.

Okay, but there is something interesting to talk about. Penman begins her account of the return of Edward and Richard to England with a meeting between Charles the Bold, Edward IV, described from the perspective of Philippe de Commines, one of the first authors in Europe to write a political memoir. The Richard III Society has a very readable translation of the entire text of this book available to read online. Commines has a lively writing style — he’s amusingly judgmental — has been described as Machiavellian politician before his time, a better description of him than what Penman is implying about Warwick, in my opinion — and he met Edward IV and has a few choice words about his philandering and bravado. Commines’ account of Edward and the material in these chapters of Penman can be found beginning in Book Two, chapter 4. And Commines has gossip — the person who convinced George to switch sides was a female spy sent by Edward, for instance (ch. 5).

[Right: Philippe de Commines’ coat of arms]

Also in these chapters, we see a closeup of the kind of discussion that went on inside a city in response to a military threat, as the York citizens discuss what to do about the parking of Edward’s army on their doorstep (ch. 23). Medieval cities typically could not afford standing military defenses (occasionally they paid for mercenaries) or count on the networks of feudal defense that nobles enjoyed. They have gates (like Walmgate bar, pictured above) and that’s it — so they have to ask if their gates will hold and for how long. Their concerns in situations like this were typically pragmatic — if we let him in or don’t let him in, can he and his army cripple us with a siege, and / or what will his friends and allies do to us? In that sense, the York negotiations are very typical. (Though the city stands at the end of this problem; less than half a century later, the growing prevalence of artillery would change the determinations a city made in such a situation entirely.)

Commines does not write about York, but he does offer some thoughts (Book Three, ch. 7) on the capitulation in London that Penman describes in ch. 25:

King Edward … marched … to London because there were more than two thousand of his supporters there, hidden in sanctuaries, including three or four hundred knights and esquires, who were very important to him as he had landed without a large company.

As soon as the earl of Warwick, who was in the north with all his army, heard this news, he hurriedly returned to London, hoping to arrive there first. He expected the city … to remain loyal to him but the opposite happened, because on Maundy Thursday King Edward was very joyfully received by the whole city. This was completely contrary to what most people thought would happen as everyone thought he was lost. Indeed if they had shut the gates against him his fate would have been sealed, since the earl of Warwick was only a day’s journey behind him.

[…] three factors helped to make the city change its mind: first the men, who were in the sanctuaries, and his wife, the queen, who had given birth to a son; secondly the great debts he owed in the city, which made his merchant creditors support him; thirdly several noblewomen and wives of the rich citizens with whom he had been closely and secretly acquainted won over their husbands and relatives to his cause.

Commines always prefers “secret machinations behind the scenes” explanations, insists to his readers that no one will reveal as much about these as he does — and urges political leaders to be a little suspicious, but not paranoid. He also calls Anne Neville’s union with Edward of Lancaster “a strange marriage” and terms Edward IV “fat” in later life. Have I convinced you to take a look yet? It’s a fun reading that I recommend to everyone who is enjoying TSIS.

[Left: Rogier van der Weyden’s portrait of Charles the Bold, referred to in TSIS, ch. 21.]

Other stuff:

I again find myself in this week’s chapters with the feeling of seesawing about Richard that I had in the chapters from last week — on the one hand, we see through Rob Percy’s eyes the icy Richard who lands in Ravenspurn with Edward and never looks back; on the other, we smile about the sweet teenager who wants to pacify Edward’s daughter, Bess, and is sheepish with his mother when she reports she’s aware that he’s already a father. I’m still not getting a handle on who exactly Penman thinks the youthful Richard is, and it’s starting to bother me a bit more, as we’re on the eve of a decisive occurrence in the man’s life.

The other main thought that I have after this week’s reading is that if last week, we were treated to contrasting depictions of female power in situations of powerlessness (Cecily, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville), the reader finds herself comparing pictures of masculinity among the York brothers: Edward, George, and Richard.

Which leads me to this week’s comic poll question:

See you next week for Book 1, ch. 26-30 — the last chapters of foreboding in the preparation for the Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, which Penman does particularly well and not in a military geek way at all. This week’s reading was a bit plotty for me, but next week’s is really worth it, as are the military chapters, so if you’re feeling a bit tired, stick with it for just ten more chapters.


The Sunne in Splendour Group Read continues on Sunday night at 9 p.m., U.S. East Coast time, and continuing Sunday nights through February.

Directions for veterans of #ArmitageWatch are found here.

Participate via the Institute of Armitage Studies facebook page, here. You can sign up there for a reminder to come and chat on facebook, too.

If you want to sign up for Twitter in order to participate in the chat, but haven’t yet, an explanation of procedures is found at the bottom of this post. The tweetchat “room” for this event will be here.

The chat is free form — come to tweet your impressions, or even a favorite quote from the first five chapters of the book.

~ by Servetus on October 29, 2012.

9 Responses to “The Armitage / Richard III rumble, Week 5!”

  1. George, Duke of Clarence,is definitely beset by all of the poll choices. Ha! But I chose, dumb to his bones. I mean, the man literally ran from his Mummy so he wouldn’t get a scolding for betraying his brother, the King. Giggles!


  2. I’m afraid I fell behind in my reading due to my trip to London last week (I didn’t take the book with me).. Luckily, a long weekend is coming up as 1st November is a Bank Holiday here and the 2nd is a “rest day”- so hope I’ll be able to catch up! Re George, I think more than anything he’s jealous of the other two boys and is desperate for attention. So I’d go with answer #2. 😀


    • I just read an interesting revisionist perspective on George — need to find it again to post here. Good luck with the reading.


  3. […] Last week: The reading (TSIS Book I, ch. 21-25) treated the prelude to Edward IV‘s (and Richard’s) return to England through their reunion with their families in London. We started with Charles the Bold‘s attitudes to Edward in January 1471, as revealed by Philippe de Commines and Margaret of York and Edward’s hesitance about George / Clarence (ch.21), moving on to reactions to his return (ch. 22) in March. Edward IV was admitted into the city of York (ch. 23) in the same month, whence he confronted Warwick at Coventry and joined with George, whose side switching facilitated his return (ch. 24), and journeyed thence to London (ch. 25), where he imprisoned Henry VI again, in April 1471. […]


  4. […] Edward is happy about this turn of events but Richard is sour. Phillippe de Commynes reappears (we have previously discussed his value as a historical source), having abandoned the Burgundian diplomatic service to work for the French crown. Back at […]


  5. […] Noting that Edward, too, has been drinking a lot and gaining weight (a detail Penman takes from Commynes), Elizabeth seeks her husband's bed to persuade him to have George executed. Edward seems to […]


  6. […] all along. That we know it was Stillington at all who had custody of the rumor is due only to Commynes, who says not only that Stillington is the source of the information about Eleanor Butler, but that […]


  7. […] Noting that Edward, too, has been drinking a lot and gaining weight (a detail Penman takes from Commynes), Elizabeth seeks her husband's bed to persuade him to have George executed. Edward seems to […]


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