Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Edward and Elizabeth

Not a post as such, but a link to an interesting article by Eric Ives.

It's a pity that Ives doesn't quote his sources as his conclusions as to the nature of the initial relationship between Edward and Elizabeth are intriguing.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Edward IV and Eleanor Talbot

For those of you who wish to know more about Eleanor Talbot, I strongly recommend Eleanor, The Secret Queen by John Ashdown-Hill. Even if you disagree with Dr. Ashdown-Hill's conclusions - and if you are sceptical about Richard III you will feel obliged to - there is nothing wrong with the factual content of the book, which gathers together everything that can be known about this lady.

Instead of trying to give you a digest of this text, I shall give you the key points of my conclusions on Eleanor, following my study of this book.

1. She was quite definitely the daughter of John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, which (incredibly) has been doubted by some historians. Talbot's name is little known these days, but at the time he was a hero, roughly equivalent to Churchill or at least Field Marshal Montgomery.

2. It is wrong, therefore, to think of Eleanor as 'obscure'. Although her own marriage to Sir Thomas Butler of Sudeley was a modest one, her father was a leading nobleman and her sister was the Duchess of Norfolk. (The same Duchess of Norfolk who served as Principal Lady-in-Waiting at Margaret of York's wedding and was the mother of Anne Mowbray.)

3. Eleanor's mother was a Beauchamp - Margaret, eldest daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. A lady of very high rank by birth, if this needs to be said, half-sister to Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick. Which makes the 'Kingmaker' Eleanor's uncle. (Perhaps fortunately for Edward IV the family quarrel between the Beauchamp sisters meant this connection was not emphasised.)

4. Another Beauchamp sister, Eleanor, married the Somerset killed at St. Albans. So, Henry Duke of Somerset and his brothers were Eleanor's first cousins.

Of course it is impossible for Ashdown-Hill, or anyone else to prove that Eleanor's alleged secret marriage to Edward IV took place. By the nature of such marriages no evidence can be extant, the witnesses being long dead. Then again, we have almost as much evidence for the ceremony as we have for that between Edward and Elizabeth W. It's really Edward's acknowledgement of the latter ceremony that makes the difference. The event itself was equally irregular.

Edward was evidently attracted to women some years older than himself and preferably widows - Eleanor, Elizabeth, 'Jane' Shore and Elizabeth Waite/Lucy all seem to fit the template.

However, let's forget personal attractions for a minute. Could there have been a political reason for Edward to marry Eleanor? Possibly, just possibly. Edward was keen to conciliate Somerset (an issue to which I shall return in due course) and in that context his marriage to Somerset's cousin might have been seen as a white rose/red rose union. With the added bonus of bringing the powerful Talbot family on board into the bargain. Given that Warwick and Montagu were very annoyed by Edward's pardon of Somerset, it would be in line with Edward's trouble-avoidance philosophy to keep the matter temporarily secret. And then when Somerset defected to the other side again, it would give a reason for an angry Edward to dump Eleanor and turn to the gorgeous Elizabeth.

It's a fascinating subject for speculation, but it can't be proved. What Ashdown-Hill has proved is that Eleanor had land which a) she did not inherit b) she did not hold by dower or jointure c) which she could not afford to buy. This land was almost certainly granted to her by Edward; and since Edward did not go around granting lands to random females, there is something there that cannot easily be explained away.

Anyway, read the book, see what you think.