Richard Armitage / Richard III rumble, Week 17!

65572_550723518285436_446683068_nRichard Armitage / Richard III fan art contributed by Maraia Donnici via FB.


This day in Plantagenet family history

From Sharon Kay Penman’s FB page: February 7th is the anniversary of George of Clarence’s death; Penman expresses her opinion that he was insane and the discussion that follows is interesting. Also, it’s not just my birthday, but that of Elizabeth of York — Penman’s Bess.

On the discovery

Neat piece on how the scoliosis diagnosis made one observer feel.

See the new Richard III exhibit at The Guildhall in Leicester.

Thoughtful commentary — on the social media processing of the Richard III discovery announcement last week.

And (thanks to the reader who forwarded this link), a nice sane voice that what proves the discovery is not the “feeling” we have about it, but the cooperation of a team of highly trained, professional scholars who worked together to test their results.

The Onion (U.S. satirical newspaper) on what archaeologists will do now.

Join the fan movement

Great summary of the fan news at King Richard Armitage and some more great links from the international press. And so, I say again — have you not yet signed the fan petition in support of Richard Armitage’s ambitions in this regard? If not, it’s time. The link to sign is here.


And now, to the TSIS group read. As usual, the links to Twitter and FB manifestations of this event are found at the end of the post.


Screen shot 2013-02-11 at 2.03.32 PM

[Left: The chapter house at Salisbury Cathedral, where Penman has Richard and his friends discuss Buckingham’s execution; today, it displays one of the four surviving copies of Magna Carta.]

Last week: TSIS, Book IV, ch. 11-15 treated July-October, 1483. At Minster Lovell (ch. 11), Francis prepared for Richard’s visit on a royal progress; Richard consented to Thomas Lynom’s marriage to Jane Shore. Buckingham informed Richard that his nephews were missing from the Tower. In September, 1483, (ch. 12), Edward of Middleham was created Prince of Wales and his half-brother John and cousin, Edward (George’s son) were knighted. From Lincoln in October, 1483 (ch. 13), Lovell recounted Richard’s royal progress, noting that the next Lancastrian royal hopeful, Henry Tudor, was lurking in Brittany. The princes were still missing; news came of Buckingham’s rebellion in favor of Tudor. Still in October (ch. 14), Bess pondered her situation, learned that the rebellion would demand her betrothal to Tudor, and heard the rumor her brothers were dead, as Elizabeth Woodville explained that she supported the rebellion to get Tudor and Buckingham to destroy each other. At Weobley (ch. 15), we learned of the failure of the rebellion to catch as Buckingham pondered his many setbacks and admitted his role in the destruction of the princes while awaiting Richard’s armies.

gal_church_ed_confessor_tomb[Right: shrine of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey, where Richard and Bess have their talk. The Coronation Chair is no longer housed there. The chantry chapel for Henry V is the structure behind the shrine in the center.]

This week: TSIS, Book IV, ch. 16-20 cover November, 1483 to July, 1484. In Salisbury (ch. 16), the major players react to Buckingham’s cowering execution. Richard’s friends note that he can no longer claim with any hope of being believed that it was Buckingham, not he, who killed the princes. In December, 1483, Anne tosses and turns at Westminster (ch. 17), as does Richard, who has a nightmare about his nephews that is really about his sons. Richard and his officials begin to draft important legislation for Parliament, particularly a bill against “benevolences” (a type of forced loan made by municipalities to the crown), as well as Titulus Regius, the bill that will disinherit Edward IV’s children; bills of attainder against those who rebelled with Buckingham are also prepared. Richard refuses to see petitioners on behalf of the rebel Thomas St Leger, but he does accept a visit from Katherine (Woodville) Stafford, Buckingham’s widow, and in a very emotional encounter, he admits to her that Buckingham killed the princes and she tells him of a relevant conversation she overheard. Katherine then goes to Elizabeth Woodville in sanctuary and delivers the bad news. Still at Westminster, in February 1484 (ch. 18), Anne and Richard discuss what Elizabeth will want in exchange for leaving sanctuary. Richard awaits Elizabeth at the chapel of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey and is accosted by Bess. When Elizabeth overhears their conciliatory conversation, she explodes, insisting on pardon for her son Thomas, exiled in France with Tudor, and a public oath, before she and her daughters will leave sanctuary. In Nottingham in April, 1484 (ch. 19), Richard contemplates the betrothal of his illegitimate daughter, Kathryn, just before he and Anne learn of Edward of Middleham’s death away from them, in Middleham. After the burial, Richard comforts his illegitimate son, John, with the reassurance he means for them to stay together. At Scarborough in July (ch. 20), Richard and Anne fight over her lack of appetite, their mutual shortage lack of children, and the political situation. Richard announces his intent to make his nephew John de la Pole his heir.


Plantagenet,EdwardofMiddleham(tomb)[Left: Monument for a Neville family member, possibly Edward of Middleham, at Sheriffs Hutton Parish Church]

Some notes:

  • Scarborough wasn’t a seaside resort until the first quarter of the seventeenth century, though I suppose Edward of Middleham might have seen the sea there. So little is known of Edward (including the accurate date of his birth) that is impossible to say much of authority about him. Some historians judge on the basis of his striking absence from most sources where we might expect to find him that his constitution had always been poor. Even the funerary monument at Sheriffs Hutton long associated with him is now thought to be the tomb of one of his relatives, and in any case, it is empty of any human remains.
  • On Edward’s separation from Anne and Richard: This was not an uncommon practice with royal children, who had their own households and whose presences served as placeholders for royal authority. In this case, keeping Edward at Middleham was probably seen as an anchoring of Richard’s authority in the north. Indeed, the only piece of evidence that I’ve ever read about the affective qualities of Richard and Anne’s marriage, or indeed, of their emotions at all, comes in the Croyland continuator’s statement about their reaction to Edward’s death:

For, in the following month of April, on a day not very far distant from the anniversary of king Edward, this only son of his, in whom all the hopes of the royal succession, fortified with so many oaths, were centred, was seized with an illness of but short duration, and died at Middleham Castle […] On hearing the news of this, at Nottingham, where they were then residing, you might have seen his father and mother in a state almost bordering on madness, by reason of their sudden grief.

  • The question of John de la Pole as heir is another one of these moments where Penman follows Kendall without querying his sources. John Rous, the closest thing we have to a contemporary source, states that Richard named George’s son, Edward, as his heir; this statement has been doubted because were it ever to have come into force, the bill of attainder against George would have to have been amended — and it wasn’t, perhaps because Edward’s claim to succeed to the throne was stronger than Richard’s own. Kendall, in contrast, states on the basis of a rather dubious reading of a sixteenth-century chronicle that Edward, was mentally retarded; he reads Richard’s appointment of Jack de la Pole as Lieutenant of Ireland as evidence that Richard saw Jack as his heir presumptive. (I’ve just read a footnote more recent than Penman that points to a Yorkist pedigree roll that may have remarked on Jack’s designation as heir, but I haven’t been able to access the actual article yet.) Anyway, Edward spent most of his life either in protective custody or prison. Both Edward and Jack were executed by Henry VII in course of their participation (Jack) or alleged participation (Edward) in revolts organized around pretenders to the throne who claimed to be Edward V or his younger brother, Dickon.
  • The potential marriage of Richard’s daughter, Kathryn: she was indeed married to Huntingdon, who had suffered the loss of an earldom under Edward IV but still supported Richard against Buckingham in Wales, after the revolt. The marriage guaranteed the relationship by rewarding Huntingdon with an annual landed income.

Reading this as a historian, three things are on my mind:

First, Buckingham’s revolt. This is a hugely significant incident; as many historians have noted, the need for a Battle of Bosworth to settle England’s future is simply the result of the forestallment of meaningful military conflict in October, 1483. In light of what I’ll mention as my third reaction to this chapter, moreover, a closer study of Richard’s reaction would have added significantly to the novel. It simply can’t have never occurred to Richard that Buckingham would be a danger to him. After he’d gotten rid of Hastings, Richard must have known that Buckingham was now the major potential power who could rise against him — precisely for all the reasons that he had accepted Buckingham’s support, and because of which Buckingham had supported him against the Woodvilles in the first place. In this sense, Penman’s continuing portrayal of Richard as someone who’s surprised by such betrayals is simply not credible.

Penman’s portrayal of Buckingham’s rebellion also fundamentally confuses its causes. She reads it as a Lancastrian resurgence, one assumes, because Buckingham had no reason to quarrel with Richard and then, of course, because Buckingham ends up with Tudor on his side. But historian Rosemary Horrox points out, in a book that’s quickly becoming my favorite work on the functionality and non-functionality of Richard’s reign, that while this rebellion had its origins in Woodville hostility to Richard’s usurpation of the throne, its true significance lies in the fact that Richard had assumed he could count on the continued support of Edward IV’s southern client networks to support him against dissent. He could not; apart from the Woodvilles, as Horrox notes, “the rebellion was essentially a Yorkist affair” (Horrox, Richard III, p. 176). This becomes clearer if we reflect a bit more closely on the fact that Thomas St Leger, whose petitioners Penman has Richard spurn, was actually Richard’s brother-in-law. Penman mentions this but she seems to give it an emotional rather than a political significance. Horrox points out, very intelligently, that the very fact that Richard came to the throne meant that there was more room for anti-Crown and anti-York resistance in England than there had been since 1471.

Second, Titulus Regius and January 1484: It’s really important for historical readers to keep in mind that, although we’ve been hearing the Nell Butler story for hundreds of pages, this is the first surviving historical source that substantiates that story. I mention this only because Penman relies so heavily upon this possibility — that huge pieces of English constitutional and royal history were reliant on the rumors of the illegitimacy of Edward IV’s children. Most working historians find this possibility highly unlikely. What makes more sense to me is a reading of this document that emphasizes its nature as a piece with Richard’s governmental measures regarding greater transparency and honesty. It’s significant that the language of the act takes sexual depravity as one sign of government run awry in England:

But afterward, when that such as had the rule and governaunce of this land, deliting in adulation and flattery and lede by sensuality and concupiscence, followed the counsaill of persons insolent, vicious, and of inordinate avarice, despising the counsaill of good, vertuous, and prudent personnes such as above be remembred, the prosperite of this land dailie decreased soo that felicite was turned into miserie, and prosperite into adversite, and the ordre of polecye, and of the law of God and man, confounded; whereby it is likely this reame to falle into extreme miserie and desolation […]

more specifially we consider howe that the tyme of the raigne of King Edward IV, late decessed, after the ungracious pretensed marriage, as all England hath cause to say, made betwitx the said King edward IV and Elizabeth … late nameing herself and many years heretofore Queene of England, the ordre of all politeque rule was perverted, the laws of God and of Gode’s church, and also the lawes of nature, and of England, and also the laudable customes and liberties of the same, wherein every Englishman is inheritor, broken, subverted, and contempned, against all reason and justice, so that this land was ruled by self-will and pleasure, feare and drede, all manner of equite and lawes layd apart and despised, whereof ensued many inconvenients and mischiefs, as murdres, estortions, and oppressions, namely of pooe and impotent people, so that no man was sure of his lif, land, ne lyuvelode, ne of his wif, doughter, no servannt, every good maiden and woman standing in drede to be ravished and defouled.

Gotta love that language — but the main thing to be noted here is that Edward and Elizabeth’s illicit desire is taken as representative of a style of government that endangers everyone living in England, and that danger in turn, is seen as the subversion of security — as long as the king can take as he please from the people, every man must fear that his women may be raped. (Note also the connection of life, land, and livelihood with wife, daughter, servant — the security of the bodies of a man’s women is thus tied to the property in which he has an interest). The main point of this document is less the literal depravity of Edward’s marital relationship than its role as a symbol for a greater evil. When the king does not govern according to law, lawlessness everywhere is the result and sexuality is the metaphor by which that disorder is represented. Via a minor, only deceptively literal statement about the potential illegitimacy of Edward’s marriage and resulting offspring, the document offers propaganda against a particular style of rule.

Finally: again, I feel like there’s simply not enough in this story about Richard’s actual governmental style. The whole question of what Richard thought a government should or should not be able to take away from its subjects under which circumstances would constitute a significant element in understanding his views of kingship — and with that, a good piece of evidence for Ricardians trying to rescue his reputation. I feel like the reader needed more here. What were the concrete outcomes of such policies, potentially? How did the cities who benefited from Richard’s refusal to accept the customary monetary gifts during his royal progress respond? And couldn’t these things be added to the story narratively? I sympathize with Penman here insofar as this is one of the hardest things for a historical novelist to do: create plausible historical additions to a story based on legal or institutional developments. At the same time, however, it would have been easier to create sympathy for Richard in this way, in my opinion, than by making him into the victim of circumstances that he increasingly appears to be here. First, that he was so shocked by every single betrayal is not plausible. But secondly — for me, it makes the Shakespearean Richard who’s wrestling with fate a much more attractive option to me as reader.


Next week: TSIS, Book IV, ch. 21-25. What happened after Anne died? This is an incident that’s been substantially revisited by historians in the last few years. So here’s a poll to get you thinking.


The Sunne in Splendour Group Read continues on Monday nights at 9 p.m., U.S. East Coast time, and continuing Mondays 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 February 11, 2013.

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

  1. Thanks for posting the link to The Onion!!!!!! 😀

    THAT is definitely the archeological dig team I’d want to be a member of, for sure! 😉

    At this weekend’s performance of Richard III in Piccadilly Circus, actor Mark Rylance (who portrays Richard III) walked on stage holding a “NO PARKING” sign, eliciting roars of laughter and applause from the audience. 🙂


    • Whoa, Expat, this is two R3 posts you’ve commented on now. I can imagine you might scare the hell out of an arhcaeologist.

      Great joke.


      • Is true. I did spend about 2 minutes biting my knuckles, debating whether to comment (knowing you would be ready with this observation). 😉

        The earlier R3 comments were made during a fit of euphoric procrastination. This Onion article, however, was just TOO GOOD to pass up. 🙂


  2. […] Last week: TSIS, Book IV, ch. 16-20 treated November, 1483 to July, 1484. In Salisbury (ch. 16), Buckingham was executed and Richard resigns himself to blame for his nephews’ deaths. Anne and Richard slept badly at Westminster (ch. 17) in December, even as Richard undertook a useful legislative program, officially disinherited Edward IV’s children, and disenfranchised the rebels; Richard met Buckingham’s widow and admitted what he knew about the princes. In February 1484 (ch. 18), Bess and Elizabeth Woodville negotiated with Richard over leaving sanctuary. In Nottingham in April, 1484 (ch. 19), Richard and Anne learned of their son‘s death. At Scarborough in July (ch. 20), Richard and Anne fought over her lack of appetite, their failures of fertility, and the political situation; Richard decided to make his nephew John de la Pole his heir. […]


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