Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Lethargy and Speculation

I have been very lethargic these last two weeks, almost as if I have been doped. As a result this blog has not received any attention, and at present my main energies are focused on writing. This means that although normal service will be resumed, eventually, it may not be for a while yet.

Meanwhile a posting on one of the Ricardian e-groups refers to the possibility that the Woodvilles may have poisoned Edward IV. This is apparently referred to at length in a non-fiction book Richard III, The Maligned King by Annette Carson, which I have not so far had the pleasure of reading.

No doubt evidence is advanced, and I look forward to seeing what it is. My first thought is that if the Woodvilles did this, they must have been mad. Even if Elizabeth was losing her hold on Edward, the chance of his ditching her, after she had given him two sons, must have been either zilch or very close to zilch. As long as he lived he was her meal-ticket, and by extension, her family's.

If Edward was poisoned it seems far more likely to me that King Louis XI of France was behind it. He had a motive - to cause maximum chaos in England. It might be argued that he lacked opportunity. The Woodvilles had opportunity, but their motive seems doubtful at best.

Any thoughts, anyone?


Susan Higginbotham said...

The evidence put forth is rather sketchy, to put it politely. Much is made of Anthony's requesting a copy of his patent to raise troops, of his arranging for his nephew to take over the deputy constableship of the Tower, and the revisions to the ordinances for the Prince of Wales' household (which Carson fails to point out were issued by Edward IV himself, not Anthony). Richard's vague reference to the fate of his "other nigh kinsmen and great friends" in his letter of instructions regarding the Earl of Desmond is also marshaled.

For her poisoning theory, Carson leans quite heavily (as she acknowledges) on a self-published book, Secret History, co-written by one R. E. Collins. She omits to mention that Collins' co-author claims to have spoken with Richard and other Yorkist dead through a psychic (for the record, the dead Richard admits to having given the order to kill the Princes, albeit under pressure from the Church).

Carson also suggests that Hastings might have been involved in the scheme to poison Edward IV, and she even suggests that the 1483 deaths of the elderly Earl of Essex and the young George Neville should be examined for Woodville involvement. It doesn't seem to have occurred to her that George was living at Middleham in Richard's custody at the time of his death, which rather begs the question of why the Woodvilles would poison George and not Richard and his family as well.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the book but haven't read it, and this entry is making me even more sceptical. Neither the Woodvilles nor Hastings had anything in particular to gain by Edward's death -- indeed, they had far more to lose, as they found out very quickly. The more sensible way to go about any plan that involved killing the king would surely have hinged on killing Gloucester first so he couldn't interfere. But I have been reading a lot of detective novels recently...

trish wilson said...


I will reserve judgement until I read Annette Carson's book tomorrow in the British Librqry. Indeed it's only thanks to a bit of kick-assing that I will able to read it at all and I'll be the first who does.

I have not only suspected for some time that Edward was poisoned but that the method was aconite.

t who does.

Robinbird said...

I find it hard to believe that the Woodvilles would poison Edward. As several people above stated, he was their "meal ticket." They already had many enemies at court and Edward's presence most likely kept them at bay.

trish wilson said...


Still in a lethargy? Hope this will help revive you.

According to John Ashdown-Hill in his brochure 'Whitefriars' Lady Eleanor - and please tell him her married name was Boteler not Butler - that's the family name of the Earls of Ormonde - she became a nun, a conversa, that's another term for lay nun.

And this is where a convent education can be an advantage because as I knew, and every nun and Catholic priest could tell you only single and widowed women can become nuns - married women cannot. So either Lady Eleanor told the convent a whopper which doesn't quite tally with her nomenclature, 'the holiest of harlots' or she wasn't married to begin with.

And the other point is that 525 years ago everybody would have known about the married women taboo.

trish wilson said...


First of all let me deal with Annette Carson. Of all the books I've wanted to take outside to the BL Piazza and consign to the bonfire of history this was the one.

I don't know if you've read Arlene Okerlund's book but she also picks up on the missing patent issued on
27th February 1483 and letter to Andrew Dymmock, the business agent of Anthony dated 8th March 1483 and it appears that the problem was the fact that at the time he had yet to receive it and this is what he wrote 'Send me by some sure (trusted) man the patent of my authority about my lord Prince and also the patent the King gave me touching power to raise people if need be, in the march of Wales'

So may I make the following points.

This wasn't a new patent, it was the renewal of a previous one.

By patent of authority I take that to mean Letters Patent (Litterae Patentes)a type of legal instrument in the form of an open letter issued by a monarch or government grating an office,right, monopoly, title. or status. Later on a particular form of LP evolved to become what we know as a patent today granting exclusive rights to an invention.

You'd'be shocked how many times the original inventer lost out because he had not acquired a patent and one of those to benefit from it was Marconi (radio). The point I'm trying to make is that without the LP a person is unable to assume ofice, exercise authority such as the Commonwealth Governor Generals (vice-regal representative of a monarch) who hold their authority on behalf of the Queen or hold exclusive rights to an invention. And that was Anthony's problem in March 1483.

If he had returned to Ludlow before the LP was granted, who would have been the Court Official with the the responsiblity of sending it on? The Lord Chamberlain who at time was none other than Lord Hastings.

What both Arlene and Annete appeared to have missed is that the patent would have put Anthony 'in loco parentis' in law 'assuming the position or place of a parent'. So why should Edward IV some six weeks later apparently change his mind?

As for that codicil English Law requires as in the matter of a will not only a testator's signature but a minimum of two disintersted witnesses. Like how many disinterested witnesses would there have been around at the time?

For the record my witnesses were my solicitor and one of the admin staff.

trish wilson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
trish wilson said...

Yesterday I picked up from AC’s book that apparently JAH has claimed that Lady Eleanor was a lay sister who did not take the veil because she couldn’t that is because she was married.

So I did some further checking including a look at the Order of Carmelites and I have to concede that the situation is somewhat confusing because the Carmelites have what is known within the monastic word a third order, the Lay Carmelites, those who follow the order but remain in the secular world. That being said I must point out that the third order did not come into being until 1476 under Pope Sixtus IV who that same year made the acquaintance of Anthony Wydeville on a pilgrimage to Italy at at the time and no doubt to visit his Italian relations which included the Orsini family a very big and powerful family who lived in Rome

Pope Sixtus went so far as to honour Anthony with the title ‘ Defender and Director of the causes apostolique for the Holy Father in Englande’ quite a honour for this apparently low-born commoner and I’ll go so far as to say that I have begun to suspect that it was the Italian connection rather than the Lancastrian connection which led to Bishop Shirwood, one of Richard’s appointees, having a hard time in Rome during 1485. Let’s face it the Wydeville’s extended family all their royal, imperial and aristocratic relations in Luxembourg, Burgundy, France, the Holy Roman Empire and Italy were hardly likely to have taken kindly to Richard’s allegations against their own.

It could be well be that the French connection - Jacquette’s sister had married Charles IV d’Anjou, (uncle of Margaret) Comte de Maine and others served the French establishment in other ways - was a deciding factor in persuading Charles VIII to back his cousin Henry Tudor. Certainly I don’t think the power struggle of 1483-5 was confined to England and I also think that the Spanish/Portuguese offers of marriage alliances had more to do with a certain nervousness about their neighbours. It was probably for the same reason that the Spanish made the same offer to Henry VII just four years after Bosworth by which time the French were really beginning to get out of control.

I did double and triple check.. There is no way Eleanor could have become a conversa without becoming a nun. Lay sisters should not be confused with laity. It’s probable that the reason the term came into being is because the conversae/conversi (monk) were - not now - second rankers not involved in the Opus Dei side of things.

Brian said...

Too much here for me to deal with neatly, but seems to me Anthony may just have lost his patent or left it somewhere else. These things happen. It was clearly a copy of one issued previously.

I still think that *if* Edward IV was poisoned that Louis XI and the French Intelligence Service were the likely culprits. At least more likely than the Woodvilles OR Hastings. Accusations of poisoning are quite common in the middle ages. Often it was the first thing people 'reached for' to explain a sudden death. It was hard to prove. Far easier to 'prove' witchcraft. (Check out Robert Neill's _Mist Over Pendle_ for a fictional but workable example.

It occurs to me that Richard and/or Hastings may have believed (or chosen to believe) that the Woodvilles did Edward IV in. That might explain why things happened as they did. But it is only a wild guess, not a historical explanation.

The Eleanor Talbot thing - the order to which she was attached was a male one, and they were friars, not monks. My understanding is (and I knew of such a chap in real life) that a person may attach him/herself to the 'third order'. This gives you the right/obligation to wear the scapular (sp?) and brings with it an expectation that you will strictly observe religious rules of life. But it doesn't stop you being married, as this guy I knew of was. (It didn't stop him going in pubs either.) As he described it, it was essentially what the TA is to the army - part time soldiering. It's for people who are unusually devout but don't actually want to be full time religious.

As to my lethargy, it is falling back before me, but what energy I have is going towards the writing. Sorry!

Brian said...

Check out http://www.tssf.org.uk/ for the Third Order of St Francis. Married people are allowed to join.

Brian said...

Silly me that last link was the Anglican Version.

This is the Catholic Version:

Has another name now, but same thing in essence and open to all included married people provided they live within the Church's rules.

trish wilson said...

OK Brian

You leave me no choice but to knock you.

What I didn't tell you was that in 1452 the cum bulla issued by Pope Nicholas V permitted women to become members of Carmelite Order.

The situation remains unchanged.

A pity Brian your research is not as good as mine.

Ever heard of some guy called Dominic Mancini? Guess what the actual name of his boss was? Angelo Cato de Supino Picked it up from both the French heraldic almanac and the ecceliastical lists and from French sources. A pity isn't that my multilingual ability include French and Italian Guess what else I picked up? He wasn't just an astrolger but an astromoner as well. Check out sometime on my blogsite Dominic
Mancini 'The case against the
case against.

Might I suggest that you and every other Ricky Groupie stop trying to undermine me? Not when I have the historical equivalent of not one landmine but several.

Brian said...

Trish, I am a great believer in free speech, and very liberal in what I allow given that this is MY blog and NOT yours but I am not prepared to be abused by you or anyone else. If you wish to be abusive, please go elsewhere.

Anyway, the order in Norwich to which Eleanor was attached was a house of (male) friars. She could not have become a nun there. Sorry, but that's just a fact. There may have been nunneries of the order in England at the time (I'm really not sure) but I'm not aware of any evidence she was attached to any one of them. She could only have been attached to a male friary as a member of the Third Order.

She also left a will. I am not aware that it was the practice for medieval nuns to leave wills. Generally when one goes into religion, one no longer has temporal possessions to leave. If I'm wrong no doubt you can indicate where the calendar of medieval nuns' wills is to be found!

trish wilson said...

With all due respect I don't care to be abused either. You should read the abusive emails I received from Joe Ann Ricca for daring to challenge two of PMK's statements. You know what makes me really angry? It's the fact that on one of them I am backed by no less a person than Sandra Worth.

At least no one can accuse me of accusing an author of telling outright lies or distoring facts which is more than be said for some members of R3S. And if you
don't believe me log onto Amazon and read the reviews on Micchal Hicks' book 'Anne Neville. and check out the reviews on Michael Hick's book 'Anne Neville'. Poor MH gets excoriated for making a statement that if you bother to check it out you will find replicated in an article by Roxan C Murph on the website of R3S
American Branch.

And you can tell Stephen Lark from me he needs to check up on his Canon Law and I mean it kindly. For a start in 1472 because of the Prohibition of Consanguinity and Affinity cousins first removed = second cousins did need a Papal Dispensation. For a second one cannot compare the situation in 1472 and that of a century later owing to something called the Reformation which changed all the rules.

And at least give me the credit for not doing a 'Digusted of Tunbridge Wells' which I was rather tempted to do.

Finally Brian I fear that on the matter of Eleanor I'm backed by the Carmelite Order. I even called a convent in Ireland to check it out .Firstly one cannot become a conversa without taking vows and secondly the Third Order did not come into being until 1476.

Not much I don't know about Eleanor Boteler aka Alianore Botiller including her carpet-bagger of a father-in-law Ralph who if he hadn't been so mean she would have had no reason to go near Edward in the first place. And if he hadn't been such a died-in-the wool Lancastrian he might have ended up as guardian of Francis Lovell rather than Warwick - his second wife Alice was FL's paternal grandmother. Now there's a thought

trish wilson said...

Everybody has a right to a defence. I am so sorry Brian you have refused me the right to mine. On the other hand I'm not surprised just very, very disappointed.

If you thought I'm going to let you get away with the comments posted on your blog forget it. Remember Brian I also run my own blog. And given my former career I always keep copies of everything I've posted.

And how dare you call yourself a liberal? Not if you're quite unprepared to accept that JAH might have got it wrong.

As they say 'Sometimes one has to be cruel to be kind'' I am sorry at the way the things have turned out but do understand this is not what I wanted anymore than you.

They say 'The truth is out there' No Brian it's not there but here and staring us in the face.

Brian said...

I have allowed Trish her say, but in the words of the old editors 'This correspondence is now closed.'

It only remains for me to remark that I didn't 'dare' to call myself a liberal, because I am no such thing. I said I was liberal about what I allowed to be said on here, which I have just proved.

John Foelster said...

Perhaps the Woodvilles had some correspondence with then Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, who was active at the time... (Tongue in cheek.)