Part Nine: Richard III as ‘Lord of the North’

Rous Roll

If you missed Part Eight covering George of Clarence’s death, you can catch up here.

In the weeks leading up to George’s execution, the House of York gathered in London for a happier matter – the marriage of the four-year-old Prince Richard, Duke of York and the five-year-old Anne Mowbray, daughter of the deceased John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. The event gathered nearly the entire family for one of the last times. The seven-year-old Prince of Wales joined his three elder sisters, Princesses Elizabeth, Mary, and Cecily. Edward IV’s mother, Cecily Neville, Duchess of York was given a place of honor, while the bride was escorted by the Earl of Lincoln (Edward IV’s nephew via his sister, Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk). Richard, too, was there, however it’s unclear if he was joined by his wife, Anne Neville.

The wedding festivities included a joust featuring Queen Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, and her two sons from her first marriage, Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset and Sir Richard Grey. Tasked with attending to Dorset was a young man named Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham was three years younger than Richard and his first cousin once removed. His grandfather had been married to Cecily Neville’s sister and was the same Buckingham who “hosted” Cecily and her children (including Richard) when they were under house arrest in 1459-1460.

Buckingham’s father died when he was still in the nursery, and his grandfather was killed at the Battle of Northampton in 1460. In 1466, at the age of eight, he was married to Queen Elizabeth’s youngest sister, Katherine Woodville. He reportedly entered into this match under duress, but that particular tale is told with the benefit of hindsight and there’s little indication of what he actually thought of marrying into the Woodville family. In January 1478 he was 22 and just beginning to crop up at Edward IV’s court.

But beyond being a who’s who of Yorkist England, the wedding also signified yet another example of Edward playing it fast and loose with the laws of inheritance. Anne Mowbray was a financial catch for her young husband, and under the law he would have the right to hold her lands on behalf of their hypothetical child. But Edward pushed through an Act of Parliament that would allow the young Duke of York to hold her lands even if Anne died before they had any children. The same provision was applied to Anne’s mother.

What it lacked in honor it made up for in fortuity – Anne Mowbray died in 1481 and had events unfolded differently, the young Duke of York would have had been positioned to serve a similar position in the future reign of his elder brother as Richard did for Edward IV.

Fiddling with the laws of inheritance was no small thing, even for a king. In fact, it was a move that often landed kings in hot water with their nobles when they did so. But Edward was in a position of strength in 1478 and he went ahead and did it anyway. We don’t know what Richard thought of this, but Matthew Lewis notes in his biography of him that he was quick to transfer the Norfolk inheritance to John, Lord Howard, who was Anne Mowbray’s legal heir, in 1483. From the outside, it can be argued that it was a correction for a move Richard found unjust.

The next few years saw Richard occupied in the north, and in 1481 and 1482 dealing with the outbreak of tension and then an outright military campaign against Scotland. I’m not going to delve into the specifics of those, but it’s worth noting that Richard acquitted himself well, and his work prompted Edward to summon Parliament in November 1482. That’s noteworthy because it had been five years since Edward had done so at that point – once Edward resumed power in 1471, he was less and less inclined to engage Parliament, a fact which doesn’t go so far as to make him a tyrant, but does underscore a certain enjoyment of centralized authority, no?

The session opened in January 1483 and Richard was rewarded for his service with the office of Warden of the West Marches, an inheritance that he could hold outright, without the provisions attached to the rest of his estate thanks to presence of George Neville. The grant included other castles and manors in Cumberland, providing a County Palatine for Richard that would have ensured his continued wealth and power. That Edward so enriched him speaks to the trust between the brothers, particularly given Edward’s experience with George.

One more event of note in these years is the Treaty of Arras, signed in December 1482 by Louis XI and Archduke Maximilian of Austria. By then, Maximilian was a widower. His wife, Mary, Duchess of Burgundy and stepdaughter of Edward and Richard’s sister, Margaret of York, died in an accident in 1482, leaving behind two young children – Philip and Margaret. The subsequent struggle for power resulted in the peace at Arras in which Margaret of Austria was betrothed to Louis XI’s son, the Dauphin, effectively breaking France’s treaty with England (and the betrothal of Princess of Elizabeth to the Dauphin). Edward was reportedly livid when he found out, but of more relevance to us is the fact that England and France were certainly not allied as we head into 1483.

This wraps up what I think we need to have covered before we delve into Richard’s reign. The next three posts are scheduled to run on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and will be formatted a bit differently. Instead of a narrative I’m going to put them in a more timeline format, so the focus is straight facts. We’ll get into the analysis of them in the posts that follow.

But before we do that I want to offer a brief lay of the land of where everyone stood at the dawn of 1483:

Edward IV was 40 years old, and despite being overweight, was in relatively good health and expected to live several more years.

Elizabeth Woodville acquitted herself well as queen consort, at least in the dynastic sense. In 19 years of marriage she produced 10 children, eight of whom were still living in 1483.

The couple’s daughters included Elizabeth (17), Cecily (14), Anne (7), Katherine (3), and Bridget (2). The girls floated around London and were well-known to their parents and their second brother, Prince Richard, Duke of York (9).

The Prince of Wales had been moved to Ludlow Castle in 1473 at the age of three under the supervision of his uncle, Queen Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers. He would eventually be joined by his elder half-brother, Sir Richard Grey. As evidenced by his presence at his brother’s wedding in January 1478, he made regular trips to court to visit his family, but he was less known to them, and – importantly – to the public. His extended family would have been far less familiar to him than his two Woodville relations. At the dawn of 1483, Prince Edward was 12 years old.

Out of the 12 children Cecily Neville gave birth to, Edward and Richard were down to only two siblings – Elizabeth and Margaret. (Their eldest sister, Anne, died in January 1476). As discussed above, Margaret’s attentions were focused on the succession of Burgundy, a point rather moot by the betrothal of her step-granddaughter to the future Charles VIII. Regardless, once events on the continent dictated Archduke Maximilian’s attentions elsewhere, she remained in Burgundy as the Dowager Duchess and oversaw the upbringing of his and Mary’s two children.

Elizabeth remained married to John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, and the two were fixtures at Edward’s court. Their eldest son, the Earl of Lincoln, was in his early 20s in 1483.

Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son, Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset had a falling out with William, Lord Hastings, often described as Edward IV’s best friend. Hastings had been by Edward’s side throughout his entire reign, and in fact helped support Queen Elizabeth when she initially sought to secure her Grey sons’ inheritance after their father’s death. Why Dorset and Hastings fell out is a matter of conjecture, but one theory is that it was over Edward’s favor and women. Well, one woman in particular – Elizabeth (often called Jane) Shore. At the time of Edward’s death, she was in fact his mistress (or so the story goes), but at various other points before and afterwards, she was also involved in some fashion with Dorset and Hastings.

As for Richard, he was 30 years old, and more powerful than ever. We’ll pick up here with the events of 1483 next time!

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