Friday, 7 March 2008

Southampton Plot - initial thoughts

I've been trying to make sense of the Southampton Plot, I really have. Pugh is again my main source, and first of all I have to say that the confessions all contradict one another for a start. They are also mutilated, so the documents only give half a tale at best.

Perhaps it's time to mention that Richard was created Earl of Cambridge by Henry V. This was one of brother Edward's spare titles and no money or land went with it. Apart from the right to sit in Parliament it was no more than a courtesy title, and Richard may well have felt disappointed - perhaps even insulted.

One thing is clear - if Cambridge and his chums hoped to pull this one off as described they were a bunch of nincompoops. The only other possibility is that there were other people involved - quite a few at that - who somehow managed to avoid the flak. Or the whole thing was somehow a setup - maybe Mossad were in there?

Richard's main home seems to have become Conisbrough Castle, which he presumably rented or borrowed from his elder brother, York, who owned it. As his second wife he married Maud Clifford, sister of Lord Clifford. (More about her later.) It appears he tried to drag Clifford into the plot, but Clifford wasn't having any of it.

Another person involved was Lord Scrope of Masham, who was married to Richard's stepmother, the erstwhile Joanne Holland. This is unlikely to have been a powerful family link, because Scrope and the Dowager Duchess were like cat and dog - Joanne even did a bunk with a stack of Scrope's property at one point. Scrope claimed that he had got involved only to betray the plot, but of course he would say that, wouldn't he?

The other main conspirator was Sir Thomas Grey of Heton, whose young son had recently 'married' Cambridge's daughter, Isabel. So it's sort of a family affair. The Earl of March came in as Richard's former brother-in-law of course.

There was also some chap called Howell who was supposed to raise Wales - he was a squire from Pembroke, so this was asking a lot.

Plan of action - swap someone (not clear who, but maybe Murdoch Earl of Fife) with the Scots for the pretend Richard II (who was already dead) and Harry Percy (Hotspur's heir, who had just signed a deal with Henry V to come home and be Earl of Northumberland).

Next, if Richard II turned out to be dead (which he was) rush off to Wales with the Earl of March and declare him king. Hope that everyone will rally round.

At some point, kill Henry V and his brothers.

Not very promising is it? I mean, would you join up to something as hare-brained as that?

March wimped out and told Henry V what was going on behind his back. Cambridge and the rest were promptly arrested, found that confessions and pleas for mercy didn't work with this king, and were swiftly executed.

It really doesn't make sense, and I wonder what modern conspiracy theorists would make of it.


Joansz_R3 said...

I don't know a lot (read practically nothing) about this period, so I have to confess that I'm completely at a loss here. And damn the medievals to only using three or four names when naming their children. Who's the first Richard you mentioned and what was his connection to RII?

tbuck said...

Great blog Brian. I just found this and will follow it avidly.

To follow up on the previous comment, perhaps it would help if you a link on here to one of the genealogical charts that are on the net. I'm pretty familiar w/ the principals, but even at that it can be a struggle to keep them all straight. And if your not familiar it's a huge learning curve w/out a handy reference. Just a thought.

This blog ROCKS. Thanks for starting it.

Brian said...

Thanks for the kind comments both of you - I will try to find a suitable tree to link to.

The Richard mentioned here is Richard of Conisbrough, aka Richard of York, aka Richard Earl of Cambridge. Younger son of Edmund of Langley, first cousin to Richard II and Henry IV and father of Richard, Duke of York - Edward IV's dad.

Yep Plantagenet family trees are fully laden. One of my mental exercises is to count Richard II's first cousins, but I rarely get the same number twice. There are 20 oddish!

Medieval Girl said...


I also have looked at the plot in some detail and have just purchased your book. One conclusion I have come to to the basis of the confessions in 1415 is that Thomas Grey seems to have been determined to implicate the other plotters. It's like he figured that as he was going to die he didn't want them getting away with it, and wanted to make them look as guilty as possible.