Part Two: Richard III’s Introduction to War & Burgundy

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Ok, we’re picking up where we left off yesterday with Richard III. You can catch up on how I’m approaching him here. As I mentioned yesterday, we know very little about Richard’s early years save that they were predominantly spent at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, and that his most constant companions were his sister, Margaret, and his brother, George. Our next glimpse of him comes in October 1459 when Richard was seven, by which time the first half of the Wars of the Roses was well underway.

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Part One: The Birth of Richard III

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By now I hope most of you have read Thursday’s post that covers how I’m approaching Richard III. If you haven’t, I recommend starting there. Going forward, while I will be providing some basic context on people and events, my aim is to keep these relatively tight biographical posts so the links I include in the text will direct you to older posts that delve more deeply into various topics.

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The Problem With Richard III

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Richard III is a tricky monarch to write about in a forum like this. His life and brief reign occurred during a particularly complex period in England’s history, and there’s an incredible level of controversy over even some of the most basic facts of his life. Compared with writing about other monarchs, Richard presents a unique challenge in that the devil is very much in the details, but I also try to write my historical posts in a way that makes them accessible for people with a more casual interest in English history or its monarchy.

That’s part of it. The other part is that few historical figures prompt as strong a reaction as Richard does. The second half of the Wars of the Roses has its own cult following akin to that of the Tudors (indeed, Richard’s closest peer in the canon may well be Anne Boleyn when it comes to sheer volume of ink spilled) and people tend to fall into two camps: those who believe Richard has been unfairly maligned and those who believe he is in fact guilty of murdering his nephews, the Princes in the Tower.

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The Battle of Bosworth

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August 22nd marked the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth, one of the more pivotal moments in English history. To some, it’s remarkable for ending the “Wars of the Roses” (a debatable point), while to others it’s memorable for being the last time an English monarch lost their life on the battlefield and beginning the Tudor dynasty. So, let’s get into it.

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Margaret Beaufort & Her Four Husbands

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Margaret Beaufort is arguably the great winner of the Wars of the Roses. Certainly she is one of the few to have lived through the war in its entirety and, as such, became the matriarch of the House of the Tudor. Mother to Henry VII, she is an ancestor to every English/British monarch since Henry VIII (as well as Scotland’s James V and Mary Stuart). But though she existed in the same world as Marguerite of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville, she is rarely seen as exciting as them – she never wore a crown and by the time she held substantial power, she was a woman in 50s. Instead, she is usually depicted as the mother-in-law from hell, a meddler and a jarring mix of pious and power-hungry.

To some, she is even a contender as the true killer of the Princes of the Tower.

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The Marriage of Richard III & Anne Neville

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If you have an opinion on the marriage of Richard III and Anne Neville, then it’s very likely that it fall into one of two extremes: a love match or a ruthless money-grab by Richard. This is mostly due, as we have discussed before, on the controversy that still surrounds Richard, from those who believe he usurped the crown and murdered his nephews to those who believe he has been falsely maligned by history. Richard was a powerful man with royal blood, not to mention one who wielded considerable political power even before he became king – as such, it’s fairly straightforward to track his movements. Less so his motivation.

As for Anne, she disappears with regularity from the historical record despite her high birth and lofty marriages. We know even less of her character, from the level of her ambition to her feelings towards her family, including her husbands. As I noted back in December, she is essentially a blank canvas on to which much has been projected. Her real personality is sadly lost to us.

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In Elizabeth of York’s Shadow: Cecily of York, Lady Welles

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Cecily of York has always perplexed me. A daughter of one queen and sister to another, she was not only at the epicenter of “Wars of the Roses” drama, but unlike her younger sisters, Anne, Katherine and Bridget, she was old enough to know what was happening. She also came very close to playing a more high-profile role thanks to her betrothal to the future James IV of Scotland, and had her first marriage abruptly annulled when power changed hands in 1485. So, who exactly was this woman?

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When Anne Neville Was Lancastrian

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Anne Neville is a curious figure in history because she is essentially a blank canvas who happened to be at the epicenter of intrigue during the Wars of the Roses. She was a queen consort of England, but one who wore the crown for less than two years and is understandably overshadowed by her more famous peers: Marguerite of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York. She is dynastically insignificant – her only son died during childhood. She was not born into royalty, but rather married into a conquering family. And she did not hold power long enough to have any lasting impact on England.

And yet, she is an intriguing figure. For nearly 12 years she was married to one of England’s most famous (and infamous) monarchs: Richard III. She was in the eye of the mysterious storm that surrounded the disappearance of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York (aka the Princes in the Tower). And she was the only figure to have married into both royal houses at war: Lancaster and York. Anne was born a Yorkist and died a Yorkist, but from December 1470 until May 1471 she was the Lancastrian Princess of Wales.

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The Long & Short of Elizabeth Woodville

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We’ve talked about Elizabeth Woodville’s wedding date, her siblings and what the significance of her filling the role of Edward IV’s consort was before, but we’ve never just straight up covered her life from beginning to end. Elizabeth has seen a surge in popularity over the last decade, which doesn’t surprise me – it’s honestly more surprising that it took this long for her to get trendy. She had two husbands, 12 children and seemingly nine lives. She was a commoner who married a king, accused of witchcraft and sensationally beautiful. She lived through the reigns of five kings, was mother to another queen consort, attached to one of history’s biggest murder mysteries and may have ended her days under glorified house arrest. In short, there was a lot going on.

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The Crowning of Richard III & Anne Neville

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Today marks the 534th anniversary of Richard III’s coronation, an event that stands out from his reign as a moment of near-optimism. It was also an unusual ceremony in that it was a double crowning – Richard and his wife, Anne Neville, were anointed side-by-side in Westminster Abbey. The 12th century had seen the same with Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, while the 13th century had seen Edward I and Eleanor of Castile and the 14th their son, Edward II, and his wife, Isabelle of France. That last coronation had taken place in 1308, 175 years before.

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