Richard Armitage / Richard III rumble, Week 18!

487764_551706141520507_144365922_n[Left: New fan art by Maraia Donnici via the Richard III for Richard Armitage FB page.]

Doesn’t he look regal? Sign the petition to crown Richard Armitage as Richard III here!

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Some cool stuff for Richard III lovers:

KathrynD writes, in a post that’s so good it’s been reblogged multiple times, on whether the Richard III discovery will change Leicester.

CDoart comments on the press storm over Richard III.

And Fabo told me that there will be MORE Richard III on British tv soon — February 27th, to be specific.

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Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 2.41.51 PM

As always, at the King Richard Armitage fan initiative — we have the latest links from the international press.

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fanstra4-come-fanstraVery shortly, it will be time for FanstRAvaganza 4! If you have a blog or tumblr, and would like to participate with even one post, you can sign up here.

And: If you’re one of those people who are unconvinced by arguments that Richard Armitage could still play Richard III himself, check out some classic FanstRAvaganza here on alternate roles for Armitage in a Richard III project.

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From Sharon Kay Penman’s FB pages: the author reminisces over visiting Bruges while writing The Sunne in Splendour; and muses on the effort to correct anachronisms as she rereads galleys for the upcoming re-release of the book in Great Britain.

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

We’re getting close to the end of the story. This is the penultimate week. Will you be sad? Penman also reported this week on her fan club FB page that some readers have told her that when they reread The Sunne in Splendour they skip the end because it’s so upsetting.

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450

[Image from the Hastings Chantry Chapel, the memorial for Will Hastings, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Source. More below.]

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.

463px-Saint_John's_Gate_Clerkenwell_the_main_gateway_to_the_Priory_of_Saint_John_of_Jerusalem_1880[Right: Historical picture (1880) of St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell — where Richard denied rumors of his interest in Bess in the Great Hall of the Priory of St John in 1485. The priory buildings were destroyed by the London mob during the Peasant Revolt and not fully reconstructed by the time Richard spoke there; this gate was finished in 1504, so Richard would not have known it; and the monastery was dissolved under Henry VIII. This is all that’s left of the priory grounds. Source.]

This week: TSIS, Book IV, ch. 21-25 trace the events of October, 1484, to March, 1485. In Nottingham again (ch. 21), Anne is feeling poorly, missing her period, and not pregnant; Véronique convinces her to call the doctor, who diagnoses consumption. Anne tells Richard to stop sleeping with her for fear of contagion. In London in January, 1485, now out of sanctuary (ch. 22), Elizabeth Woodville plots her way back to power, with the assistance of Reginald Bray, one of Buckingham’s conspirators, who warns Elizabeth that Bess seems to be too enamored of Richard ever to consider marrying Henry Tudor. Elizabeth states her belief that Buckingham murdered her sons. On her way home, Elizabeth ponders the possibility that Richard and Bess could be romantic partners. Seeing Bess watching Richard at the court’s Twelfth Night revels, Elizabeth concludes that the rumors are true. A failing Anne takes to her bed at Windsor in February, 1485 (ch. 23). Praying at the memorials for Will Hastings and Edward IV, Richard encounters a pregnant Jane Shore. Bess, meanwhile, is crying over her horse’s death as sublimation for her grief over Anne. Her mother tries to talk her into wanting to marry Richard. Having returned to Westminster in March (ch. 24), Anne and Richard talk on her deathbed, whereupon she dies — unfortunately for Richard, on the same day as a solar eclipse, an ill omen. Afterwards (ch. 25), London is agog with the possibility that Richard might marry Bess and that Anne’s death might have been hastened with poison. His advisors debate whether it would be better to ignore the rumors or respond to them; Richard speaks because it had been an error not to make the disappearance of the princes public in the summer of 1483. Cecily pleads with Richard to see Bess before putting her out of reach. At this meeting, Bess concedes that she had briefly entertained romantic dreams of Richard, and Richard realizes his last tie to his brother has now been broken.

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Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 4.00.17 PM[Left: Leaf A j recto of William Caxton’s English ars moriendi, translated from a Latin text current in Europe after 1415 and published in in 1475. This text was so popular that Anne and Richard absolutely would have known of its prescriptions and probably would have read at least parts of it. Click to enlarge. Source.]

Historian’s notes:

This is the kind of thing I write and then end up hating myself for writing. Pick, pick, pick about wie es eigentlich gewesen. Can’t we just enjoy the novel, already?

First, the most annoying anachronism in this week’s reading: Elizabeth Woodville’s attitudes about death as expressed to her daughter, Bess:

It is not implausible that Elizabeth Woodville wished Anne Neville dead. Elizabeth’s opinion in this passage that it is a mercy when suffering people die quickly rather than lingering was not a medieval one, however, not least because concern about the fate of the departed was a primary motor of culture and economy in the medieval West. (In our case, for example, a significant proportion of the surviving documents that even mention Anne refer to provisions for prayers to be said for the repose of her soul posthumously — although she was not buried in any of the places where she endowed masses, but rather with full honors in Westminster Abbey, probably as a means for Richard to assert the legitimacy of his kingship.) Numerous fifteenth-century manuscripts and early printed books in Europe treated the theme of death in a genre of works called ars moriendi, or “art of dying” — so common were these imprints in every European language, in fact, that they can be seen as “bestsellers” in an age when few were literate and printed books were expensive and treated with care. From the perspective of the ars moriendi, Anne experienced the ideal death — one that announced itself clearly but dragged on for quite some time, allowed her time to contemplate her past and future, to experience and surmount the related earthly temptations, and to repent all of her sins, reconcile with her neighbor and G-d, and die in a state of grace. If she endured it patiently, Anne’s suffering before she died would have been read by the witnesses at her deathbed as a noble martyrdom worthy of imitation and that gave indices as to her future after death. Because the manner of death was seen to be evidence of the possible salvation or damnation of the sufferer, and because of their edifying possibilities, medieval deathbeds, especially royal ones, were heavily social events that were watched closely (Penman gets at least that much right, intimating that many would have witnessed Anne’s death).

Hastings[Right: the full pictorial program from the Hastings Chantry Chapel. Source.]

The next most annoying anachronism in this week’s reading: Did it strike you as odd that Richard visited Will Hastings’ grave at the same time that he visited that of his brother, Edward? Seeing as how Hastings had just been executed for treason a few chapters ago? Penman seems to take this as a sign of Richard’s remorse over Hastings’ death. I doubt it. Maybe I’m wring, but while it’s true that the memorial for Will Hastings is located immediately adjacent to the monument for Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville in the choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, it’s highly unlikely that there was a memorial to Hastings there in 1485. We know this because, although Hastings was not attainted after his execution, so that his son succeeded him as Baron Hastings, his will was not fully executed until at least sixteen years after his death. I was unable to dig up a reason why from my computer screen, nor have I looked at Hastings’ will, but my guess is that, if he did provide for his burial in St George’s, it had to do with his strong loyalty to Edward IV as the superintendent of his household. After Hastings’ execution for treason, it’s hardly credible that Richard would have buried him there; after Richard’s deposition, extensive blood and marital alliances between the Hastings family and some York clients might have been a reason for the holdup. In any case, what is now called the Hastings Chantry Chapel was not endowed until 1499 (the documents survive in the chapel’s archive). The motif of the paintings in the chapel, which were done by an English artist, concerns the martyrdom of St Stephen — a program probably intended as a statement about Hastings’ death at the hands of an unjust monarch. Art historians believe that Henry Tudor paid for them. And St George’s Chapel at Windsor is very much a location of Tudor memoria. Although Henry VII, himself a usurper, chose the same unabashedly royal burial at Westminster that Richard gave to Anne, Reginald Bray, one of his supporters in challenging Richard, is buried here. Henry VIII and his beloved Jane Seymour, who gave him his much-hoped-for son, Edward VI, both rest here, as well. In other words — the fact that the memorial provisions of Hastings’ will were executed so late — only under Henry VII — and his monument put here, with this particular motif — very much served the family memoria of the Tudors, who sought to legitimate themselves by connection to Edward IV, both through Henry Tudor’s marriage to Elizabeth of York (Bess) and later, by having Henry VIII’s son succeed to the throne as Edward VI although Edward IV’s son, Edward [V], had never been crowned. Had Richard stayed king, it’s unlikely that this monument would have been placed there.

image_medical_recipes_closer[Left: fifteenth-century English remedies from Cheshire for bladder problems, from a compilation held by Chetham‘s Library, probably compiled in a monastery. Source. Click on that, because the transcription is really hilarious.]

Finally, regarding Anne’s death from consumption and fear of catching it being the reason that Richard abandoned Anne’s bed: The European Middle Ages lacked a germ theory of disease transmission. Diseases were thought to be transmitted by miasma, or bad air; even plague contagion was not attributed to the vectors all around — rats and fleas — until some time in the seventeenth century. Insofar as people understood how contagion worked, they did not associate it with microorganisms but with inert substances or particles, though even this was a minority view. More prevalent theories for the appearance of consumption involved divine punishment, demonic influence, or the failure of internal organs to do their work correctly based on humoral imbalances. Some in early modern New England even attributed consumption to the influence of vampires. Anyway, a significant strand in medical history now eschews retroactive disease diagnosis, but this is a postmodern viewpoint, and explaining why experts have taken this viewpoint would take more time than I have today. My point is simply that it’s unlikely that a “doctor” (in this case, Penman seems to suggest, a university-trained physician, who would have treated Anne on the basis of medical theories, as opposed to a practical healer or herbalist — these were three different professions among Christians in the Middle Ages) would have told Richard to stop sleeping with Anne because of fear that consumption was contagious. He might possibly have said so, had he felt that Anne was so sick that coitus was too strenuous.

Now, it’s true that the Croyland continuator, a source who would have been in a position to know this kind of thing, notes that Richard abandoned Anne’s company at this point, writing: “the king entirely shunned her bed, declaring that it was by the advice of his physicians that he did so.” But the continuator’s addition, “Why enlarge?” (a quip he uses repeatedly) implies that there was more to the story and that he is accepting the most plausible explanation for a matter about which more might be said. In any case, were this truly tuberculosis, it didn’t suddenly appear after Christmastime. Croyland is hinting at the matter that takes up most of Penman’s energy this week, to wit: the issue of Richard’s relationship with Bess (Elizabeth of York).

Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 1.04.42 PM[Left: readers stated their opinions last week.]

I wrote the poll, and so I personally picked “Eeeew,” but only speaking as a person. I picked it because of the age difference; I assume most readers would pick it because of the incestuous nature of the relationship. I’ll discuss the view on this question in the late Middle Ages in a second. Speaking as a historian, I like the answer picked by just as many commentators: that Bess, in a situation not dissimilar to Anne Neville’s situation on the brink of her marriage to Richard, would have been looking to maximize her own self-interest.

First: a contemporary report substantiates that Richard did actually deny publicly the rumor that he had poisoned Anne in order to marry Bess. Moreover, according to the continuator, he did so on the advice of his advisors,

Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 1.05.00 PMagainst his own express wishes — that is, Croyland says, Richard did wish to marry Bess but denied in public that he had thought of it.

How credible is this possibility? First, although I know it will kill the people who picked “Richard mated for life” as an answer — all of the history of the English fifteenth century would have taught him that he desperately needed a legitimate heir who was at least fifteen. According to Croyland, rumors that Richard sought a divorce from Anne circulated at court during Christmas 1484/5 and thus actually preceded her final illness. Perhaps he truly regretted Anne’s death, as the contemporary report of his denials states — but true love would not have mitigated the other problem. His continued presence in Anne’s bed could have been a testament to ongoing affection and attraction, but equally to their shared awareness that they badly needed a son. Anne was still of childbearing age.

Those who prefer the more cynical reading, which points out that while Richard needed Anne’s fortune in order to pay for his role in the kingdom after Edward’s reaccession, but that once her property had been settled upon him for her lifetime by act of Parliament, he no longer her needed her except to bear him children, might note that her death after her son’s came at a very convenient point for him. As king, Richard had access to larger resources, and the same act that had given him lifetime usufruct of the Warwick estates had not given him power to pass it on to his sons. So the only other sense in which the marriage remained of his to him was politically, insofar as his northern clients cultivated a historical relationship with the Warwicks and a resentment of the Woodvilles.

435px-Elizabeth_of_York_from_Kings_and_Queens_of_England[Right: Elizabeth of York after her marriage to Henry Tudor]

In this light, then, historian Michael Hicks points out in his recent biography of Anne Neville that Bess was both the most attractive candidate to succeed Anne, and the most difficult one. On the one hand, had Richard married his brother Edward’s eldest child, it would have prevented Henry Tudor from doing so, and in doing so, have knocked a lot of wind out of the hopes of those rebels who sought to bring him to the throne. (This surmise is particularly true if, like Rosemary Horrox, we read Buckingham’s rebellion as a Yorkist affair in support of Edward’s posterity, rather than a Lancastrian revival.) Additionally, it would have brought the Woodvilles back “in” at court, defusing somewhat their treasonous ambitions. On the other hand, however, and equally, Richard’s traditional northern clients would have found the reinforcement of the Woodville connection unbelievably distasteful — Croyland also has Richard’s advisors point out to him that many of his supporters would have feared revenge for the deaths of Woodvilles and Woodville clients during Richard’s usurpation, had Bess become queen. Two other difficulties were, of course, Bess’ own illegitimacy, which had been defined by Act of Parliament in 1484 (although I tend to think this would have been less of a problem, had Richard’s client system not already been failing — more about this next week) and their consanguinity.

How to evaluate these questions in figuring out whether Richard and Bess could have coupled, or at least wanted to? First, I conclude that Richard did consider Bess as a marital prospect in practical terms, mostly because even the sources that can be seen as partially sympathetic to Richard point in this direction. Like many modern historians, I buy the arguments that Croyland’s facts are solid even though his opinions about them are hostile to Richard. As Hicks notes, Croyland does not even mention the poisoning story picked up in all the later sources, which tends to suggest that he did not believe it, but he does mention that Richard thought he had grounds for divorce (though Croyland does not state what they were, which implies that he did not know them. Presumably they involved the missing dispensation — a situation that Richard probably created on purpose, as we have noted before, but of which contemporaries were not aware). And Croyland notes what Penman emphasizes — that neither Richard’s clients nor the general public in London would have accepted a marriage to Bess:

For by [Catesby and Ratcliffe] the king was told to his face that if he did not abandon his intended purpose, and that, too, before the mayor and commons of the city of London, opposition would not be offered to him merely by the warnings of the voice; for all the people of the north, in whom he placed the greatest reliance, would rise in rebellion against him, and impute to him the death of the queen, the daughter and one of the heirs of the earl of Warwick, through whom he had first gained his present high position; in order that he might, to the extreme abhorrence of the Almighty, gratify an incestuous passion for his said niece.

On the front of possible dispensations for consanguinity, of course, Richard had played this game before and was perhaps more confident than his advisors of being able to win it; in any case, the question of whether the pope could dispense for extremely narrow degrees of consanguinity like this one was indeed current in the canon law debates of the day, and such marriages, even among nobles, are extremely hard to find in the records.

481px-Thomas-howard-rubensportrait[Left: Rubens’ portrait (1629/30) of the “Collector Earl” of Arundel, now in the possession of the National Gallery, London. Source.]

Second, what about Bess’ wishes? I note, yet again about yet another Plantagenet woman, given the lack of sources, it’s hard to say much about the interior life of Elizabeth of York. The only surviving evidence we have on this question is the transcription of a paraphrase transcription of a letter she is supposed to have written to the Duke of Norfolk, a long-time and very loyal York client who would die with Richard at Bosworth a few months later. According to the (seventeenth-century) paraphrase, two weeks before Anne’s death, Bess wrote to ask for Norfolk’s support in a potential marriage to Richard, who was everything to her, and worried that Anne would never die! Note that this datum squares with the general pattern we’ve seen, that rumors that Richard sought a divorce preceded Anne’s death. I might also note that it conforms more generally to a basic understanding of Bess’ practical self-interest at the time, though that alone is not a reason for believing it, either, as historical agents constantly wish or act against their own self-interest.

Now — for a lot of medieval history, the main sources we have are transcriptions of other sources. This difficulty alone doesn’t automatically discount a piece of evidence, but we do have to be careful in using it and try to confirm its conclusions elsewhere. It’s always good if a source has been transcribed in multiple locations, but that didn’t happen here. Moreover, in this case, the transcriber was the nephew of George Buck. Buck was the person who discovered the Croyland Chronicle, and with it, the only surviving textual copy of Titulus Regius. Buck said he found this letter in 1619 in the library of the Earl of Arundel, a noted manuscript collector whose assemblage now resides in the British Library. The original has disappeared; Buck’s original transcription does not survive; it was destroyed in manuscript during a fire in 1731. The version of the letter that we have stems from a publication by Buck’s nephew in 1647. Michael Hicks states the argumentation for believing the substance of the transcription as Buck’s nephew presents it; I am more suspicious, insofar as Buck was a known pro-Ricardian and had already discovered Croyland, so that he would have been likely to interpret anything he read in that light. My own historical training says that if an original source has disappeared and its transcriber has known sympathies that cannot be analyzed or critiqued or compensated for via other sources, the evidence is prima facie unreliable.

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Next week’s our last rumble — TSIS, Book IV, ch. 27-32. Get ready!

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Obviously, we’ll be able to discuss this more next week.

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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 19, 2013.

7 Responses to “Richard Armitage / Richard III rumble, Week 18!”

  1. Thanks for another link to my blog 🙂

    Like

  2. He looks like the Richard III I would imagine in that picture. I hope he will be Richard III even if he is little too old. But it was different those days I think. Most people didn’t live to their 30s. I believe people aged faster then.

    But otherwise they could also make a film about Richard Lionheart. I think that part would be perfect for RA. What do you think?

    Like

    • The only reason I blog about Richard III is that it’s a role / project he says he wants to do — I could take or leave Richard I.

      Like

  3. OMG, Servetus, how much do I love you? This is just so enjoyable to read that I want to get on a plane and find you for a long convo right now.

    Like

    • What a sweet thing to say — but I felt like a nitpicky witch while writing it 🙂 Would love to discuss papal dispensations w/you at any time.

      Like

  4. […] Last week: TSIS, Book IV, ch. 21-25 trace the events of October, 1484, to March, 1485. In Nottingham again (ch. 21), Anne is feeling poorly, missing her period, and not pregnant; Véronique convinces her to call the doctor, who diagnoses consumption. Anne tells Richard to stop sleeping with her for fear of contagion. In London in January, 1485, now out of sanctuary (ch. 22), Elizabeth Woodville plots her way back to power, with the assistance of Reginald Bray, one of Buckingham’s conspirators, who warns Elizabeth that Bess seems to be too enamored of Richard ever to consider marrying Henry Tudor. Elizabeth states her belief that Buckingham murdered her sons. On her way home, Elizabeth ponders the possibility that Richard and Bess could be romantic partners. Seeing Bess watching Richard at the court’s Twelfth Night revels, Elizabeth concludes that the rumors are true. A failing Anne takes to her bed at Windsor in February, 1485 (ch. 23). Praying at the memorials for Will Hastings and Edward IV, Richard encounters a pregnant Jane Shore. Bess, meanwhile, is crying over her horse’s death as sublimation for her grief over Anne. Her mother tries to talk her into wanting to marry Richard. Having returned to Westminster in March (ch. 24), Anne and Richard talk on her deathbed, whereupon she dies — unfortunately for Richard, on the same day as a solar eclipse, an ill omen. Afterwards (ch. 25), London is agog with the possibility that Richard might marry Bess and that Anne’s death might have been hastened with poison. His advisors debate whether it would be better to ignore the rumors or respond to them; Richard speaks because it had been an error not to make the disappearance of the princes public in the summer of 1483. Cecily pleads with Richard to see Bess before putting her out of reach. At this meeting, Bess concedes that she had briefly entertained romantic dreams of Richard, and Richard realizes his last tie to his brother has now been broken. […]

    Like

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