Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Beauforts

Those of you who get the Ricardian Bulletin will have seen a very interesting article from Stephen Lark in which he points out that it is possible John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset (first of that long and confusing line) was quite likely legally a Swynford, in view of the probability that he was conceived during Hugh Swynford's lifetime.

Of course, it is also quite likely that everyone (who mattered) knew he was biologically Gaunt's son, bearing in mind how the upper classes work.

The purpose of this post is not to debate Stephen's theory, but to consider the circumstances under which the Beauforts were legitimised. When Gaunt returned from his attempt to conquer Castile, he was well received by Richard II, who had learned in his absence that his earlier hostility to his uncle had been a political error. Gaunt strongly supported the King's peace policy with France, and in return Richard rewarded him generously, most notably with the extension of Lancashire's palatinate status to an hereditary one, and the creation of Gaunt as Duke of Aquitaine. (Had the Gascons not objected, Richard would have gone so far as to allow his uncle to hold this honour directly from Charles VI of France, but as it was he retained the suzerainty.)

The process of legitimisation of the Beauforts was a continuation of this royal favour. Moreover, Richard favoured the Beauforts themselves, possibly seeing in them a suitable counter weight to Henry Bolingbroke.

The point is that in 1396/97 no one dreamed that the Beauforts might ever get near the throne. Even if one assumes that Gaunt was de-facto heir (and this is a million miles from the true position) his son Bolingbroke had four sons of this own. So on the most generous estimate, forgetting the Mortimers altogether (and Henry's daughters), John Beaufort was seventh in line. It was not realistically going to happen. So the nominal status of his birth was really neither here nor there. At least not in 1396/7.

Taking this into account, there is perhaps a logical explanation for Henry IV's decision to exclude the Beauforts from the succession. They were suddenly a whole lot nearer. It would have helped, of course, if Henry had gone on to set out the succession after the heirs of his children - but he was not to know that they would prove to be so infertile. It probably never even crossed his mind that this was an issue.

(Since I wrote this, Stephen Lark has pointed out to me that he said in his article that John Beaufort was likely a biological as well as legal son of Hugh Swynford. My apologies for misunderstanding.)

Friday, 6 December 2013

Frustrated Falcons


The Amazon version of Frustrated Falcons is now available in both paperback and kindle formats.   This is my short triple biography of the three children of Edmund of Langley, first Duke of York. For anyone who doesn't know these were: Edward, the second duke, described by one chronicler as a 'second Solomon' who died at Agincourt; Constance, Lady Despenser and Countess of Gloucester, who organised an interesting plot against Henry IV and was the great-grandmother of Anne Neville - and ancestress of very many more; and Richard, Earl of Cambridge, who was involved in the Southampton Plot of 1415. Richard was, of course, the grandfather of Edward IV and the little-known Richard III.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Alianore Audley

The Adventures of Alianore Audley is now available through Amazon in Kindle format. I am currently checking a proof for a new printed version for the traditionalists among you. This will be a slightly larger format than the former Bewrite edition, and should be available shortly, also through Amazon.

For those of you are millionaires, there is also a de luxe version available through Blurb, including a hardback edition. But cheap it is not! The forthcoming paperback should be a lot more reasonable.

Work continued slowly on Alianore Audley and the Holy Grail. No promises as to when this will be forthcoming, but I will get there. I have put too much effort into it now for it to be abandoned.

Also on the stocks is a small factual work Frustrated Falcons which is about Edmund of Langley's three children. I am looking for my notes on Edward, the 2nd duke, which I need before I complete it. I think I can describe this little book as 'forthcoming'.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Not The White Queen

I suppose I am missing an opportunity for not posting more now that The White Queen is so much in the public eye, and the Yorkist era has become quite topical. However, I do not have the patience to go through a long digression on the factual and historic errors of the TV production - besides, it has already been discussed thoroughly elsewhere.

It may be said by some that at least this new production will introduce more people to the Yorkist era. Well, there may be some truth in that, if you suppose that Braveheart created more interest in Edward II and Robert the Bruce. Sadly, I am reliably informed that all too many people still live under the impression that Edward III was fathered by Wallace. While this is quite amusing - if you are the sort of person who finds ignorance amusing - it does suggest that the dreadful film has not much advanced people's understanding of the era. So will it be, I suspect, with the Yorkist era. There are already enough misapprehensions around - held, for example, by those who suppose More's work on Richard III is a sort of Holy Writ - without creating more.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville

An evil fairy almost made me include 'supposed', 'bigamous' or 'purported' in that title. After all, in a world where at least one author has put Richard III in inverted commas, I feel one is entitled to be equally catty. But I shall rise above it, and wait for an opportunity to write 'Henry IV' or 'Henry VII' when describing the said personages,

As Susan Higginbotham has pointed out there can be no absolute certainty that the traditional date for the wedding 1st May 1464 is in fact the correct one. The facts Susan produces indicate that at the least Edward was playing his cards so close to his chest that not even William Hastings knew the full SP. And if William Hastings, as Lord Chamberlain and supposed best buddy was kept out of the loop, who was left in it?

Given that medieval kings and queens lived their lives literally surrounded by attendants, it almost beggars belief that Edward was able to slip away long enough to court, win and marry Elizabeth without anyone knowing. (If he did indeed manage this feat, it demonstrates that he could have done the same with someone else, doesn't it? And we wonder about lack of proof?)

Now, of course, attendants on royal personages learn to be discreet, especially when the royal personage concerned is a young sovereign 'taking his leisure' with one lady or another. That almost goes without saying. But if Hastings really did not know, then discretion was really taken to extremes in this case. To an almost mind-boggling degree.

One possibility is that Hastings was not at court at the relevant time. Although as King's Chamberlain he was expected to hang around Edward most of the time, he naturally had his own private affairs to attend to (and indeed duties connected with his other offices), and there was a deputy to take his place when he was absent. This is something that detailed research as to Hastings whereabouts (compared to those of Edward IV) might bear dividends. But one of Hastings' key qualities was what we now call 'people-skills'. He was well-liked, and well-connected to all manner of influential people. It would be astounding if one or other of his underlings at court had not informed him of such an important development as the King's marriage.

So, on the face of it, Edward married Elizabeth and no one at court knew. It was that tight a secret. Or if someone did know, that person kept his mouth firmly shut, out of fear or loyalty.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Richard of Conisbrough, Earl of Cambridge

I have noticed that the Wiki Page for young Richard has been expanded considerably and now includes reference to his possible illegitimacy. It even provides us with an image of him, and to be honest I don't recall having seen it before, though I may have done somewhere.

What the article fails to mention is the seminal work of T.B. Pugh in Henry V and The Southampton Plot, which is unfortunate because I am 95% certain that Pugh was the first reputable historian to draw attention to the matter and suggest Richard was not born until 1385, or thereabouts. It also fails to mention that Shirley, the 15th century collector of poems and servant of various nobles, the man who first linked this supposed affair to Chaucer's poem, had known links to Isabel Countess of Essex (Cambridge's daughter) and Isabelle, Countess of Warwick (Cambridge's niece.) These ladies were in a position to know their family gossip - whether they shared it with Shirley and told him it was 100% kosher we shall never know.

Frankly I should prefer to think that Edward IV and Richard III were descendants of Edmund of Langley - but we can at least be reasonably sure that they were descended from Lionel of Clarence, which is they key thing from the point of view of the succession.