Richard Armitage / Richard III rumble, Week 10!

14_lanly_001Wrong month, but beautiful Armitage / Richard III fan art courtesy of Русскоязычный Cайт Pичардa Армитиджa.


I admit I’ve been so focused on Richard Armitage this week that I haven’t thought much about Richard III. As a tidbit, however, Sharon Kay Penman reminds us that December 6th was the birthday of Henry VI.

Sign the petition! You know you want to!

You can also generate a commission donation to Richard Armitage’s JustGiving charities by buying some neato Richard III swag (or indeed, anything) at zazzle.


Since the Gloucesters celebrate Christmas this week, here’s some atmosphere:

This is the English carol, “Ther is No Ros of Swych Vertu,” composed around 1420. It is a song that Richard and Anne almost certainly would have known.


And now, to the group read. As always, links to FB and Twitter discussions are found at the end of the post.

Last Week: TSIS, Book II, ch. 9-13 recounted the recovery of Anne’s person. Anne escaped the Herber and hid in October 1471 (ch. 9); Richard rescued Anne (ch. 10), and proposed and placed her in sanctuary. In November 1471 (ch.11), Richard and Edward IV discussed politics in the wake of Edward’s reaccession and plans for Richard’s marriage to Anne. Richard and Anne (ch. 12) awaited papal dispensation to marry and fought over how to pursue her inheritance; and finally, in February 1472 (ch. 13), Edward forced George, Anne’s guardian and the major obstacle in the way, to consent to the marriage.

450px-BeaulieuAbbey5[Left: Beaulieu Abbey, where Anne of Warwick claimed sanctuary. It became private property after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. North & South fans might be interested to learn that it’s in the New Forest; Margaret Hale might have visited the village.]

This Week: TSIS, Book II, ch. 14 and Book III, ch. 1-4. We find ourselves first at the wedding of Anne and Richard (ch. 14), which Penman puts in April 1472. Richard shows himself a considerate lover, first by banning the traditional pre-consummation ribaldry from the bedside and then by initiating intercourse gently and then spooning with her afterwards, although Anne is still not able to overcome the bad memories of her previous marital relations. After the wedding, Anne and Richard move to Middleham. Book III, titled “Lord of the North,” inaugurates the phase of Richard’s career in which he is building loyalties and governing the North of England successfully — the phase of his life that suggested he would be a good governor and king. In September, 1472, Richard meets the mother of his illegitimate daughter, Kate (Book III, ch. 1), while visiting the girl. His daughter’s mother still loves him but recognizes that he now loves Anne. The Gloucesters keep Christmas that year at Middleham (ch. 2), where Anne is pregnant. In June 1473, Anne’s mother, the Countess of Warwick, now dispossessed, is released from sanctuary at Beaulieu (ch. 3) to go to her daughter at Middleham. There, Anne is newly delivered of a son, Edward; has taken in Richard’s illegitimate son, John; and has apparently learned to enjoy marital relations. Finally, in November 1473 (ch. 4), readers are introduced more fully to two crucial players in the later drama of Richard’s accession to the throne — Will Hastings, who we met before, and his twenty-two-year-old mistress, Jane / Elizabeth Shore, are in bed when Edward IV happens in upon them — after which a starstruck Jane becomes Edward’s lover, frustrating Will.


Screen shot 2012-12-08 at 11.29.52 PMAt right, the results of the poll from last week. Intriguingly, readers who prefer a “love” approach to Anne’s dilemma (of whatever sort) are almost equally balanced with those who prefer a stance that emphasizes Anne’s awareness of her power and social balance. Scriptwriters, take note. Is there a way to balance both of these elements in a portrayal of Anne?

Because I have to get on the road and can’t geek out over what I’d like to write this week (perhaps there’ll be an opportunity for a retrospective), let me note some things that historians would observe about this chapter.

First, I’d draw reader attention to what seems from our perspective like the rather large indeterminacy of a number of these dates.

One of these is the date of Richard and Anne’s marriage. Richard moved Anne to sanctuary on February 16, 1472; the first document that gives unequivocal evidence that they were married is dated June 6, 1474. No surviving document says anything about the date or nature of their wedding. Penman responds to this problem by suggesting that Richard and Anne sought a low-key wedding for personal reasons; she also gives it the earliest possible historical date (since the Church prohibited weddings during Lent).

Of course, Anne and Richard would also have had social reasons for wanting to keep any celebration of nuptials limited. Contemporaries would have seen the way of Anne and Richard’s marriage as quite scandalous. In medieval canon law, the consent to marry between partners — so-called “contract marriage” — constituted a valid union (a matter that would become a huge bone of contention during the Reformation, incidentally). This is an important thing to to know about medieval England, because the outcomes of this practice are going to hit us over the head again in only a few more chapters. Because of this state of affairs, it was common for betrothed partners to consider themselves married and thus commence sexual relations ahead of the formal ceremony that played the legal role of securing property relations and inheritance. But Richard and Anne could not simply marry by plighting troth, because their union was highly incestuous. Nor would a clandestine marriage (in secret, without announcement of the intent to marry, outside of the canonical hours of 8-12 a.m.) have served their purposes, although it would also have been legally binding. It was well known that the prospective partners were related in the first, second, third, and fourth degrees. Although we would not recognize all of them today (for instance, we would not say that George’s marriage to Isobel made Richard into Anne’s brother, which canon law did), the forbidden degrees were known and significant to contemporaries. Children of a known incestuous union were illegitimate and could not inherit; the church was required to separate incestuous partners.

So Anne and Richard needed a dispensation. When we left them, last week, they were cuddling in bed in St Martin-le-Grand, waiting for it. The first dispensation they received is preserved only in a section of the Vatican Archives long barred to secular researchers. Until recently, historians thus assumed that the two had married without any dispensation. The registers of the papal penitentiary only became accessible in the twentieth century and confirmed that an initial letter of dispensation was issued on April 22, 1472. It was a pro forma document that this particular wing of the Vatican bureaucracy issued regularly to nobles who could afford it, which dispensed the couple from all disabilities to their relationship in the third and fourth degrees. It was apparently sufficient to squelch the qualms of a clergyman, so that no one in fifteenth-century England thought Anne and Richard unmarried. But it was clearly inadequate as a solution to their problems. No record survives anywhere that Richard and Anne were ever dispensed from impediments in the first and second degrees, or that they even asked to be. It is uncertain that they could have been (canon lawyers spent a lot of this period precisely debating whether even the pope could dispense a couple from biblical impediments like those stated in Leviticus) and it certainly would not have happened without intensive lobbying at the Holy See. Perhaps the two thought it was hopeless. Indeed, the 1474 parliamentary property settlement of the Beauchamp, Despenser and Montagu estates I discussed last week was cognizant of this problem. It provided that the property settled on Richard would remain in his hands, even were his marriage to be found void — thus neatly robbing Anne of her jointure. Given the tendency of nobles to play fast and loose with canon law, Anne and Richard likely assumed that they’d be secure in enough in their positions to ensure their heirs could inherit, and thus not to be vulnerable to challenges on this score. There’s a particular pattern in England of “marry first, get dispensed later.” But that didn’t mean observers weren’t troubled by it, or that marriages or sexual relations of questionable legality couldn’t come back to haunt couples, as we’ll see in a few chapters.

Edward_of_Middleham_(geograph)[Left: A monument at the parish church in Sheriff Hutton, thought to be a cenotaph for Edward of Middleham. Source.]

Another point on dates: Edward of Middleham’s exact birthdate is recorded in no contemporary source and thus counts as uncertain. Penman gives it the earliest possible date — perhaps subconsciously relying on argument in some secondary literature that Anne and Richard married without full dispensation because she was already pregnant. Various dates between 1474 and 1477 have been proposed for his birth based on ex negativo and deductive arguments. The first document that refers to his existence is the record of a chantry endowment of July 1, 1477, listing him among those to be prayed for. His name points to the possibility that Edward IV was his godfather, but no record of the baptism survives, nor of Anne’s obligatory churching after the birth. Account books reveal that Edward was wet-nursed by Isabel Burgh and later raised by Anne Idley.

Secondly, on the wedding night, this theme deserves an entire separate discussion, but I need to note that the possibility that a bride would engage in first coitus with her husband before the eyes of witnesses has been widely magnified in modern popular literature. (And, just to add a pedagogical tidbit on the same theme — the jus primae noctis or droit du seigneur is also a myth, as is the chastity belt.) Medieval couples were indeed brought to bed by guests at their weddings, and rituals of disrobing and robing and drinking and ribaldry and lewd jokes and gestures certainly accompanied that process — our “throwing the garter” in the West may possibly be a remnant of these practices — but I am unaware of a historical basis for more. Noble weddings by proxy did involve customs that would have required the bride to disrobe partially in front of witnesses. This was especially the case when partners were betrothed by proxy (per verba de praesenti) and a marriage had to be legally consummated before a wedding could be planned. Katharine of Aragon was married in this way in 1502. Upon her arrival in England, she disrobed partially and lay in bed, whereupon a representative of the crown came to her and touched his naked thigh to hers, which constituted a valid marriage. Anne and Richard can hardly have been married by proxy, however.

Finally, regarding Richard’s other issue: Richard had two children apart from his marriage with Anne, and possibly a third. It is not entirely clear that all were born before their marriage, and Penman’s book effectively suppresses the strong likelihood that Richard continued sexual relations outside of his marriage for his entire life. We know that Richard made financial provision for his children, as well as for people who look suspiciously like they might have their mothers. This index points to Richard’s relative generosity, for the illegitimate offspring of the nobility — and their mothers — were rarely treated as well as he did his. He betrothed his daughter, usually called Katherine Plantagenet, to the Earl of Huntingdon in 1484; she married and died in 1487. His son, John (variously of Gloucester; of Pontefract) also had an uncertain birthdate, which could have fallen either before or after Richard’s exile (Penman puts it shortly before). After Anne’s death, John was made Captain of Calais. John lost this job and was pensioned off when Richard was killed at Bosworth and Henry VII came to the throne; John is said by a single historical source to have been imprisoned or executed during the rebellion of Pekin Warbeck. He is thus thought to have died by 1499. Penman’s position that Anne was unusually kind to her child’s half-brother is entirely hypothetical, and to some extent suggestively countered by the datum that John’s elevation in rank came only after her death.


No silly quiz this week because I have to get on the road.  See you next week for TSIS, Book III, ch. 5-9.


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 December 9, 2012.

17 Responses to “Richard Armitage / Richard III rumble, Week 10!”

  1. Thanks for the great recap! I’m already in Book 4, but I’ve been rereading these passages in prep for tonight. Have a great trip!


  2. What a stunning interpretation of those last chapters in the collective reading. I always have trouble finding the line between story and history in historical fiction and I am especially struggling with TSIS.
    Your analysis is absolutely invaluable to me, Servetus. Thank you !!!


    • TSIS is particularly difficult to hook up to events, IMO — although Penman can be excused in that a lot of research has been published since she was composing her work (well before publication), and in that the state of social history research in general has improved drastically since her book was published. But no one can do anything for missing sources. That’s of course where the novelist creeps in, and she has to do a lot in this section.

      w/r/t interpretation, thanks, but I’m just filling in some of the structural supports for Hicks’ narratives for those who are not familiar with canon law.


  3. Hicks is known to be rabidly anti-Richard and some of the interpretations are not quite right. A better book to draw on in Annettee Carson’s The Maligned King and of course Kendel’s Richard III. Sharon Penman’s interpretations seems to be based more on these well researched books rather than Hicks. And god forbid Alison Weir!


    • I disagree with regard to Hicks. That biography is simply excellent, and it incorporates the most up-to-date research.


    • Kendall’s Richard III is rabidly Ricardian. In looking at footnotes repeatedly and tracking down sources, I’ve found missing references and made up bits that are not in the sources.


    • It may help you to know that I have no dog in this fight. I’m neither anti- nor pro-Richard. I’m simply a professional trained historian evaluating sources. And in a situation where sources are quite thin on the ground, Hicks has done a spectacular job. My only complaint is that his notes are hard to decipher. But once I’ve done that, I’ve actually been able to reproduce his path through them, which is not the case for Kendall, gripping as his writing may be.


  4. Servetus, I am NOT a trained historian but Hicks theories makes no sense to me at all. And he is flat out wrong when he talks about Richard and Anne’s marriage dispensation as well Richard’s plan to divorce a dying Anne……I can to ask my friends at RIII society for references. They can argue point by point better than I can 🙂
    Ooh, I love both Richards and hope to god RA can play R3before he is old and gray!


    • Ishita,

      First, although you may not care for Hicks’ work — and I agree, it doesn’t make Richard look heroic — we in the profession would consider him at least slightly Ricardian. This reading is reinforced by the fact the Richard III Society posts an article by Hicks on its website that covers most of this same territory:

      So I’d be surprised to hear that the Richard III Society disagreed with him all that substantially. I’d ask you to keep in mind, however, that saying Richard III was not a hero is not the same as saying he was a villain.

      Second, for more information and data, you should check out the article that provides most of the argumentation re: the re-discovery of the dispensation. it is Peter Clarke, ‘English Royal Marriages and the Papal Penitentiary in the Fifteenth Century’ in _English Historical Review_ cxx (2005). EHR is one of the most prestigious journals in England; it’s multiply peer reviewed, which means that several fellow historians go over the argumentation in any article before publication and check it out. Hicks disagrees with Clarke in only one point (whether the dispensation in the 3rd and 4th degrees would have been sufficient).

      If you can provide evidence that refutes Clarke, I’d be willing to listen, but I think it would be hard if you’re not a trained historian.

      Finally, you don’t say what about Hicks’ arguments re the dispensations doesn’t make sense to you. If there’s something I can try to explain, let me know. Hicks’ argument is both straightforward and based on surviving sources. Additionally, it makes the dispute over this dispensation fit well into the trajectory of the problem of obtaining dispensations for royal marriages in England. So I don’t think you can call him flat out wrong unless you have other evidence, and having looked at this fairly closely, I’m not sure what the other evidence would be. But I’d be happy to hear what the sources are if you you have them.


  5. Maybe “wrong” was a bad choice of word. My knowledge is from reading the books and not research. I can of course look up the sources closely and try to make better arguments? One more thing, What are Hicks sources about John of Gloucester’s birthplace ? Is there any evidence that John was born after R’s marraige? If so what is the reference? I am not being adamant ; just trying to learn more!

    And as for Richard’s being a hero or not, He was a war hero for sure. A courageous knight. The way he fought at Bosworth is enough to testify for his bravery. Even Mancini mentions how he was above reproach in his private life and public affairs(even though he does say R did away with the princes) So, all in all I give him high marks. He did make mistakes along the way, specially in executing Hastings. I wish he had executed Stanley and Morton( his eccelestial state not withstanding ) instead! If he had a failing it was his bad judgement :/…….. But villain he was not.


    • My point is that I couldn’t care less whether Richard was a hero, a villain, or something in between. As a professional historian, I’m not in this to do anything for Richard III. I wrote about this extensively several months ago:

      I was asked to blog along with the group read to provide historical context, and that’s what I’m doing; as Penman raises different issues, I’m asking what the research since the publication of her book has revealed about those issues. I’m a big fan of Richard Armitage, and I want to support his ambitions to this project in any way possible as long as he may still be pursuing it. (This theme on the blog will stop the second he says he doesn’t want to do it.) But that’s different than trying to rescue the reputation of Richard III, who’s never interested me all that much, precisely because people are so engaged in villifying or defending him. After sifting through all of the stuff I can access, my own conclusion is that Richard was very much a person of his age. He definitely engaged in serious landgrabbing and other behavior that would have looked dubious after the way state practices changed under the Tudors; the sources on this are clear. But so did everyone else at the time.

      re: John of Gloucester / Pontefract. There is no definitive source evidence at all to his place OR date of birth. On this all historians agree. All historians who write about this must thus reason on the basis of inference.

      Hicks states correctly that no sources state John’s birthplace or birthdate. The argument that John was born at P. is based on his name (the very few contemporary sources that describe him either call him “bastard” or else use the Pontefract name, as far as I know. We call him “Gloucester” to connect him to Richard, but that’s our choice, afaik) and on Richard’s grant of a startingly large annuity at Pontefract in 1474 to a woman whom a handful of historians (not just Hicks) now think could have been John’s mother. Dissent on this point comes from Rosemary Horrox, who prefers the interpretation that John and Katherine had the same mother (for which she concedes there is also no evidence, but she’s also arguing on the basis of an annuity grant to the woman she believes was Katharine’s mother). IF (and Hicks states this is an inference) the annuity granted was to John’s mother, then he has to have been born before March of 1474. But as far as I know, John’s first literal appearance in the sources is at his knighting in 1483 in honor of his half brother’s elevation to Prince of Wales, so we can say little about his birthdate based on actual sources references to him.

      Assuming that the argument from name is correct [another point Hicks agrees is an inference], then the next step to take is to ask when Richard could have fathered anyone at Pontefract. Hicks notes that Richard was in Warwick’s household from 1465-68 (aged 13-16), and Pontefract was in Warwick’s remit, but neither Richard nor Warwick can be shown to have ever been resident at Pontefract in that time period. Richard left Warwick’s household at that point, but no source puts him in Pontefract. In October of 1470 he goes to Flanders and stays there till the spring of 1471. While I agree that a thirteen-year-old would have been an unlikely father under these circumstances, the more suggestive point to me (Hicks lists this as a subsidiary argument) is that had Richard had a son, even a bastard, he would have been likely to have been mobilized more actively — he would have been given incomes or honors that would have shown up in sources before 1483. Hicks points out that in contrast to before, after 1471 Richard can be shown to have been at Pontefract repeatedly (and then, of course, he grants the annuity from Pontefract). Hence, given our knowledge of Richard’s movements plus the age question, Hicks prefers a date of conception after the exile. As Hicks points out, we can’t date the wedding with any precision, and he does not state a date himself except to note that a marriage before Lent 1472 had ended would have been almost impossible. As a consequence, he concludes that the conception of John might have been contemporaneous with or subsequent to the wedding to Anne.


  6. […] discussed the matter of marriage extensively when treating the date and matter of Anne and Richard's nuptials, three weeks ago. As I noted in that post, a marriage was considered valid in canon law if the prospective partners […]


  7. […] discussed the matter of marriage extensively when treating the date and matter of Anne and Richard's nuptials, three weeks ago. As I noted in that post, a marriage was considered valid in canon law if the prospective partners […]


  8. […] father; the fact of the “incestuous” quality of their marriage (for more on this, see my discussion of the forbidden degrees in canon law in Richard III’s life; we’ll come back to this when talking about the audiobook) — and finally, his own […]


  9. I’m puzzled by the statement that Richard and Anne were related in the first degree. As far as I was aware, the Church by this point had determined that “affinity did NOT beget affinity” (Fourth Lateran Council, 13th century). This should have meant that the marriage of Isabel and George had no bearing on the ability of Anne and Richard to marry. There are several other examples over this period of pairs of siblings marrying other pairs of siblings. And I’m unaware of any other possible first-degree link between them.
    That they were related in the second degree is obvious: just like their siblings they were second cousins once removed by modern understanding. But this dispensation was obtained for George and Isobel so logically there would surely have been no reason for Richard and Anne to fear they would not receive it.
    Could someone pick me up on where I might have mis-understood this if indeed they were related in the first degree?


    • Thanks for the comment and welcome. My source for this assertion was Michael Hicks’ book on Anne Neville. I’m not an expert on canon law, but I will say, about medieval legal history in general, that there is the word of the law and how the law is perceived, i.e., that canon law had changed after 1215 does not mean that people on the ground necessarily knew that, or, if they knew it, believed or agreed.


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