The Unfortunate Countess: Margaret Pole



At Farleigh Castle on the 14th of August 1473, a daughter was born to the Duke and Duchess of Clarence. They called her Margaret, most likely after the Duke’s sister’s Margaret of Burgundy. Margaret was born during the brutal and bloody time of the Wars of the Rose – a powerful family divided by the House of York and House of Lancaster, and each believed the throne of England belonged to them. Margaret Plantagenet was born in the middle of this English chaos. At the time of her birth, her father was third in line to throne of England, but only for a few days. On the 17th of August 1473 was born a son to Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. They called him Richard, presumably after Richard, Duke of Gloucester and future Richard III.

If you’d prefer to listen to the podcast that went along with this please click the image below to be directed to it:

George, Duke of Clarence was the troubled middle brother of King Edward IV and Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Like his brothers and father he was an excellent warrior but was easily swayed by power. His wife Isabel Neville, Duchess of Clarence was the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, or the “Kingmaker” as he is generally referred to. Warwick was instrumental in placing Edward Plantagenet (Edward IV) on the throne. When the new king, Edward IV chose to secretly wed the widowed Elizabeth Woodville, Warwick was not happy. All the hard work to put together treaties and alliances was all wasted. To make matters worse, Elizabeth Woodville was the widow of John Grey – who fought and died for the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses. She was from the enemy’s side.

Warwick’s anger towards his sovereign grew and grew until he took action – once again to prove that he deserved to be called the “Kingmaker”. The King’s brother George appeared to have been a jealous man, and maybe a paranoid man. Of the three brothers, he was the middle brother. Using that to his advantage, Warwick and George plotted to join their two families in marriage. Warwick’s eldest daughter Isabel secretly wed the Duke of Clarence without the permission of his brother the King and the King’s own mother joined in on the betrayal and informed everyone that Edward was not the legitimate son of Richard, Duke of York but an archer. The plan was to disgrace and remove Edward IV and replace him with George and Isabel at the helm. This plan, too, would fail.



Long story short, the Earl of Warwick was killed in battle, Isabel Neville died and George, Duke of Clarence was executed. By 1478 Margaret Plantagenet and her brother Edward were both orphans.

Life After Death

Life for Margaret and her brother would never be the same. They were taken in by the royal household and by 1485 their uncle Edward IV was dead , as were his two sons the princes in the Tower, not to mention their paternal uncle Richard III and maternal aunt and queen consort Anne Neville. The only people remaining were Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters.

When Henry Tudor became King of England in 1485, some believed that Margaret and her brother Edward had a stronger claim to the throne than Henry – who had won the crown on the battlefield. This resulted in Lambert Simnel being touted as the young Edward, Earl of Warwick as claimant to the throne by means of the House of York. Their plan was to get people to join an army against the Tudor king. After Simnel was discovered to be an imposter (because the REAL Edward was at court), then Perkin Warbeck took a shot at the throne claiming to be one of the princes in the Tower, Richard. Warbeck was eventually arrested and in 1499 both he and the real Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick were executed for plotting treason. Margaret Plantagenet was now the only member of her family alive, but she was not alone.

Marriage

At the age of 14, Margaret was married to Richard Pole, a loyal subject of the king and relative of Margaret Beaufort. The marriage was a good match in the eyes of Henry VII because there was a serious threat of Margaret being a figurehead for further uprisings. A marriage to Pole would make it more difficult for plotters to use Margaret as a figurehead for their Yorkist cause.

Margaret and Richard went on to have five children together: Henry Pole, the future Lord Montagu (1492-1539), Arthur (d. c.1527/8), Ursula (d. 1570), Reginald (1500-1558), and Geoffrey Pole (d. 1558).

At the age of 28 Margaret spent five months in the household of Katherine of Aragon, until the death of the Prince of Wales in April 1502.
Sir Richard Pole died in October 1504. After his death, Margaret was left to raise five children in the difficult financial situation she was left in after her husband’s death. Her jointure was not sufficient for the circumstances she inherited. Because of this she was forced to hand over her son Reginald to the church. She had no other choice.

Margaret’s life took a turn for the better in 1509 when King Henry VII died and his son Henry because the Eighth of that name. Margaret found herself once again in the household of Katherine of Aragon, only this time she was queen consort and not Princess of Wales.
In 1512, at the petition of Margaret, Henry VIII granted her the earldom of Salisbury, making her Countess of Salisbury in her own right. Things were beginning to look up for not only Margaret but also her children as they were in favor of the king.

The fact that Margaret held the peerage title in her own right was a big deal and something rarely heard of in 16th century England. The next notable name to do so was Anne Boleyn in 1532.

The relationship between the King and Margaret wavered a bit in 1518 when Henry repossessed some of her Salisbury lands saying they belonged to the duchy of Somerset.

Princess Mary

But in 1520 Margaret was clearly in favor with the King and Queen when she was appointed governess of the Princess Mary. However, in 1521 she was removed from her position when her sons were implicated the Duke of Buckingham’s treason. Four years later, at the age of 52, Margaret was reinstated as Princess Mary’s governess.

Margaret was very fond of the Princess Mary and protected her like a mother would. Margaret even offered to remain on as Mary’s governess after her household was dissolved in 1533. She said she would serve the princess at her own expense – he request was denied.

Problem Child

It should come as no surprise that after the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536 Margaret was once again back in favor, but it would not last long. The son who she had given to the church denounced, in writing, King Henry’s royal supremacy. By his letter, Reginald Pole had put his entire family in danger. When Margaret was informed of her son’s letter she wrote him and admonished his letter to the king.



The dissolution of the monasteries, as well as the king claiming royal supremacy, led to what was called The Pilgrimage of Grace.

Evidence remains from the imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys that in 1534 there was already whispers of something big happening in England. Margaret’s youngest son, Geoffrey had been in contact with him. Chapuys was more than happy to report this to his master:

Respecting the disaffection (indisposition) of the Welsh country, to which allusion has been made in the said letters, my information is that the inhabitants are really very much concerned and afflicted at the bad treatment of the Queen and Princess, as well as at what is now being done against the Faith; for they (the Welsh) have always been and are still, to a man, good Christians.

…I am informed from a good quarter, this King is exceedingly annoyed. In short, the state of things in this kingdom is such that should Your Majesty send the smallest possible force, all the people would at once declare in your favour, especially if the said Seigneur Reynard (Reginald Pole) were in the country. (fn. n23)

The latter’s younger brother (Geoffrey) is with me, and would visit me almost every day, had I not dissuaded him from doing so, on account of the danger he might run. He, however, ceases not, like many others, to importune and beg me to write to Your Majesty, and explain how very easy the conquest of this kingdom would be, and that the inhabitants are only waiting for a signal. (fn. n24) I have never spoken to him about his brother (Reginald), except warning him that the latter had much better remain where he is now, and beg his daily bread in the streets, than attempt returning here in these troubled times, for fear he should be treated as the poor bishop of Rochester, or worse still. This he assures me he has done, having written to him many a time, and made his mother also write and warn him not to come here. (8 Nov 1534, Wien, Rep. P.C., Fasc.228, No.62)

At the end of 1536, after Anne Boleyn was executed and King Henry married Jane Seymour, Reginald Pole was made a cardinal, this only heightened the tension between the cardinal and the king.

With the Lady Mary back in favor surely those who backed her with the Pilgrimage of Grace were satisfied.

The Beginning of the End

In the summer of 1538 it all began to unravel for Margaret Pole and her children. A servant of her son Geoffrey called Hugh Holland was arrested. Author Susan Higginbotham of “Margaret Pole – The Countess in the Tower” states that it may have been Margaret’s own pious act which resulted in her family’s downfall.

Margaret maintained a ‘surgeon house’ in Warblington and the house surgeon called Richard Ayer claimed that Margaret kept ‘a company of priests [in her] house which did her much harm and kept her [from] the true knowledge of God’s word’. It appeared to Ayer that Margaret was of the old faith and not the new faith like himself. Word had reached Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal and he sent a spy to collect info for him. The man was Gervase Tyndall and he was a school master. Tyndall lodged at the hospital and Richard Ayer was more than willing to ‘give up the goods’ on Margaret and her family. Ayer told the spy that a servant of Geoffrey Pole called Holland was conveying letters to Reginald Pole and that ‘all the secrets of the realm of England [were] known to the bishop of Rome as well as though he were here.’

Allegedly, when Margaret figured out this Tyndall was of the new religion order Ayer to send him away. Had she been receiving reports that Ayer was spilling the beans? When Tyndall refused to go due to his supposed ‘poor health’ she order Ayer to send all the patients away, but not before it was revealed that Margaret’s council refused to allow her tenants to own an English language bible.

Holland was but a servant and once can assume the man, upon his arrest, was terrified of being tortured. He gave evidence against Geoffrey, which in turn also damned Margaret. Holland stated that he went to Flanders to sell some meat for his master, Geoffrey Pole. While there he was asked to deliver a message to Pole’s brother Reginald. In that letter Geoffrey offered to join his brother – he said, ‘the world in England waxes all crooked, God’s law is turned upside down, abbey and churches overthrown and he [Reginald] is taken for a traiter’, and he also claimed in the letter that assassins had been sent to dispatch Reginald.



In Showtime’s The Tudors, those assassins were Sir Francis Bryan and Sir Thomas Seymour. We don’t know who these assassins but it makes for an interesting story, doesn’t it?

After Reginald read the letter from his younger brother he sent a letter back to his mother, Margaret saying that ‘my hope is in God’ and that he desired her blessing. For his brother Geoffrey he said, ‘meddle little and let all things alone’. But Geoffrey wouldn’t take no for an answer, he clearing wanted to be part of this movement against the King of England. It was not long before he was arrested, on the 29 August 1538, Geoffrey Pole was placed in the Tower of London.

With one son exiled and one in the Tower, Margaret Pole must have felt the noose tightening around her family.

Two months after his arrest Geoffrey Pole was finally interrogated and asked for names of others involved. He named several people, including his own brother Lord Montagu. Pole insisted his brother only wanted change as far as religious matters and that he did not wish harm to the king. By that time it was already too late – he listed his brother, regardless of any disclaimer and it appears that his was so guilt ridden by it all that John Hussee reported to Lord Lisle that Geoffrey was ‘so in despair that he would have murdered himself and, as it was told me, hurt himself sore’. Another man by the name of Richard Morisyne claimed that Geoffrey stabbed himself in the chest with a blunt knife. Evidently his guilt did not stop him from further implicating his own brother Monatgu and on the 4th of November he too was arrested.

During all of this Margaret was at Warblington. Those around her worried that her loose-lipped son would take her down with him just like he did with his brother, Lord Montagu – to that Margaret said, ‘I trow he is not so unhappy that he will hurt his mother, and yet I care neither for him, nor for any other, for I am true to my Prince.’

Eight days after the arrest of her son Lord Montagu, Margaret was visited by the Earl of Southampton, Thomas Goodrich and the Bishop of Ely for questioning at Warblington. For two days they questioned the stoic Countess. Margaret claimed that her son Reginald had not told her that he went abroad because he disliked the way the kingdom was governed. In addition, she had not received any letter concerning him except one from the king. She also did not know about Hugh Holland being sent to deliver letters to her son.

The plot to assassinate Reginald was something that Margaret was aware of, she stated that her son Geoffrey had told her of the King’s plan and she had hoped to change His Majesty’s mind.

Margaret was asked if she knew that her son Geoffrey and Lord Montagu wished to join their brother and she responded that she ‘prayed God she may be torn in pieces if ever she heard such a thing of her sons’. She also denied in questioning that she wished for Reginald to be made Pope.



Margaret admitted that she was sorry for the destruction of the abbey and religious houses where her ancestors were buried.

After questioning had ceased, her interrogators wrote to Cromwell and told him:

“Yesterday…we travailed with the Lady of Salisbury all day, both before and after noon, till almost night. Albeit for all we could do, though we used her diversely, she would utter and convess little or nothing more than the first day, and that she ‘utterly denieds all that is objected unto her; and that with most stiff and earnest words’.”

Her interrogators believed that either Margaret was a marvelous liar or that her sons did not make her privy to their plans.

Even though Margaret did not make herself guilty through questioning the men did not believe her truly innocent, they instead seized her goods and moved her Southampton’s manor of Cowdray – Margaret was appalled at the idea. They hoped that moving her to a less friendly location would get her to open up and confess.

Southampton and Ely were surprised when even that did not work, noting:

We have dealt with such a one, as men have not dealt withal before us; we may call her rather a strong and constant man, than a woman. For in all behaviour howsoever we have used her, she has showed herself so earnest, vehement, and precise, that more could not be.”

Merely two weeks after Margaret was questioned, her eldest son, Lord Montague was tried before a jury of his peers at Westminster. He was followed by the Marquess of Exeter, Geoffrey Pole, Edward Neville, Hugh Holland, George Croftes and John Collins. At all of the trials the men were unanimously found guilty and were sentenced a traitor’s death – to be hanged, drawn and quartered. But since Margaret’s son, Lord Montagu was of a higher ranking he (along with Exeter and Neville) had his sentence commuted to beheading. The other men were not so lucky – after their execution their heads were placed on London Bridge and their quarters were placed ‘on divers gates about London’ – as a reminder to the King’s subjects what happens when you are involved in treason.

Margaret’s son Geoffrey was more fortunate, he was pardoned – something he clearly could not live with as he attempted to take his life in the Tower for a second time since his arrest. Eustace Chapuys reported that he tried ‘to suffocate himself with a cushion’.

By May 1539, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury was attainded on treason. This meant she would not receive a trial. Higginbotham states in her book that ‘the evidence against her appears to have been quite vague, which was undoubtedly why the government chose this means of proceeding.

Her attainder reads:

“And where also Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, and Hugh Vaughan, late of Beckener, in the County of Monmouth, yeoman, by instigation of the devil, putting apart the dread of Almighty God, their duty of allegiance, and the excellent benefit received of his Highness, have not only traitorously confederated themselves with the false and abominable traitors Henry Pole, Lord Montagu, and Reginald Pole, sons to the said countess, knowing them to be false traitors, but also have maliciously aided, abetted, maintianed, and comforted them in their said false and abominable treason, to the most fearful peril of hi Highness, the commonwealth of this realm, &c., the said marchioness and the said countess be declared attained, and shall suffer the pains and penalties of high treason.”

After Cromwell read the Act of Attainder he displayed a tunic from Margaret’s coffer that displaced a coat of arms that appeared to be a combination of the Pole arms with that of the Lady Mary – for it was suspected that the two would wed and return England to Catholicism.

We don’t know for the date for certain but we know that by the 20th of November 1539 Margaret was a prisoner in the Tower of London. The following month Thomas Cromwell was informed that additional clothing was needed for two ladies and their attendants in the Tower, who were under the charge of Thomas Phillips. Margaret apparently made quite a fuss stating that she was in need of proper clothing to keep her warm and to change. Was this why the order was approved by the King to have clothing made for the Countess? The clothing that Katheryn Howard is often given credit for.

Margaret would stay in the Tower for as long as her son Reginald was still a threat.

Margaret Pole was executed on the 27th of May 1541.

French ambassador Marillac said this of Margaret’s execution:

‘yesterday morning, about 7 o’clock, beheaded in a corner of the Tower, in presence of so few people that until evening the truth was still doubted. It was the more difficult to believe as she had been long prisoner, was of noble lineage, above 80 years old, and had been punished but the loss of one son and banishment of the other, and the total ruin of her house.’

Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys had this to say:

The very strange and lamentable execution of Mme. de Salisbury, the daughter of the duke of Clarence, and mother of Cardinal Pole, took place at the Tower in the presence of the Lord Mayor of London and about 150 persons more. At first, when the sentence of death was made known to her, she found the thing very strange, not knowing of what crime she was accused, nor how she had been sentenced; but at last, perceiving that there was no remedy, and that die she must, she went out of the dungeon where she was detained and walked towards the midst of the space in front of the Tower, where there was no scaffold erected nor anything except a small block. Arrived there, after commending her soul to her Creator, she asked those present to pray for the King, the Queen, the Prince (Edward) and the Princess, to all of whom she wished to be particularly commended, and more especially to the latter, whose god-mother she had been. She sent her blessing to her, and begged also for hers. After which words she was told to make haste and place her neck on the block, which she did. But as the ordinary executor of justice was absent doing his work in the North, a wretched and blundering youth … was chosen, who literally hacked her head and shoulders to pieces in the most pitiful manner. May God in His high grace pardon her soul, for certainly she was a most virtuous and honorable lady, and there was no need or haste to bring so ignominious a death upon her, considering that as she was then nearly ninety years old, she could not in the ordinary course of nature live long. When her death had been resolved upon, her nephew [sic], the son of Mr. Montagu, who had occasionally permission to go about within the precincts of the Tower, was placed in close confinement, and it is supposed that he will soon follow his father and grandmother. May God help him!”

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury was laid to rest at St. Peter ad Vincula – the same place where many of our Tudor favorites lay.


Sources:

Higginbotham, Susan. Margaret Pole – The Countess in the Tower; Amberley Publishing (August 15, 2016)

Pierce, Hazel. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Pole, Margaret, suo jure countess of Salisbury. (28 May 2015)

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Elizabeth of York: Life of a Tudor Queen (Guest Post)

Guest article by Lindsey Wolf

The day was February 11, 1503. The bells of Saint Paul’s Cathedral tolled while London’s wearied masses collected in assured astonishment of the news. The Queen was dead. Queen Elizabeth of York had been introduced to the realm 37 years to the day of her death in an England much different from the one she left. She was the first child of King Edward IV and her namesake, Elizabeth Woodville. Born amidst the turmoil of the dynastic wars; her formative years were spotted with war, instability, death and betrayal. Narrowly escaping the grasp of her Kingly uncle who stood in place of her misfortunate brothers, the succession of a Lancastrian incumbent would change her fortunes. Following the defeat of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, Elizabeth married the freshly crowned King Henry VII. By uniting their houses formally, the Tudor dynasty sought to establish itself as the premier royal house at all means necessary. England’s new Queen would play an essential part in her country’s security by providing the necessary heirs to its future. She would hardly disappoint. Nine months and one day after her wedding, she gave birth to the golden prince meant to be the first King to receive the crown by means of natural inheritance since the days of Henry VI; Prince Arthur.

In the course of her life, Elizabeth would provide seven additional children as adornments to the Tudor tapestry. By all accounts, Elizabeth would prove herself to be a figurehead for the ideal late medieval Queen. It is even suggested that through her, The Tudors earned their trademark coloring. Erasmus described her in singularity as “brilliant.” A Venetian report detailed Elizabeth as “a very handsome woman of great ability, and in conduct very able,” while commenting personally on her “charity and humanity”. She may have even conducted some power herself from underneath of her husband’s iron first in forms of rebuking letters sent to members of the peerage. Yet, despite all of her glories and characteristics, she too proved to be made of clay. Succumbing to postpartum infection following the birth of a short-lived daughter just over a week later. Her distraught and notoriously thrifty husband spent lavish sums on a funeral fit for her importance in a sum estimated at 721,270 in modern terms. A London lawyer delivered an elegy which effectively summed up the realms opinions of their lately departed Queen:

“If worship might have kept me, I had not gone,
If wit might have me saved, I needed not fear,”

That same lawyers name was to return to the chronicles of history again and again; Thomas More. Specifically when he served under the son of Elizabeth; Henry VIII. Ironically, it was from the death of Henry’s mother that one of the most prolific influences would enter his life stage. Henry, described as Elizabeth’s “loving son”, was a mere eleven years old at the time. His entire life had been turned on its axis the previous year following the death of his eldest brother. This left him as his father’s sole male heir. Gone was the Tudor’s golden egg and in its place, a scarcely known boy whose life had predetermined towards the church prior. As one could only imagine, the events of the past two years would prove to be traumatic for the pubescent Harry but how affected was he by the passing of his mother?



The Vaux Passional is an illuminated manuscript dated from the late 15th or early 16th century. In its rare, original binding lays some means to answer this question. The books first miniature depicts the same manuscript being presented to a regent that is thought to be Henry VII. Yet, just past that lays its true peculiarity. The background of the illustration contains two young girls before a fireplace in colors of mourning. Besides them, a young man seeming to weep into a bed of black cloth. His face hidden despite his full head of reddish-golden hair. It is almost with complete certainty that one can suggest these three children represent Margaret, Mary and Henry following the death of the Queen. Given it is likely a contemporary source, this manuscript seems to know better than we may about the reaction of the young Prince. Be it of her death of the events that had transpired in such quick succession. The miniature depicts not the Kingly man who Henry was to become but a small, broken boy. In a letter to Erasmus in 1507, Henry would later reflect following the death of Philip the Handsome that “never since the death of my dearest mother hath there come to me more hateful intelligence. And to speak truth, I was the scanter well-disposed toward your letter than its singular grace demanded, because it seemed to tear open the wounds to which time had brought insensibility. But indeed those things which are decreed by Heaven are so to be accepted by mortal men.” Henry was particularly fond of the archduke who was married to his wife’s sister and who had visited him in 1506. In many ways, Henry saw Philip as the ideal man of his era against the advisement of Henry’s own father. This death seemed to shake the Prince to his core. Another death so close to home as his life seemed virtually full of them.

Henry (by this time Harry) was no doubt profoundly upset by the lost of his mother which, to a modern audience, should come as no great surprise. Yet, by the contemporary standards of the day, it should be noted with some air of curiosity. Royal mothers were notoriously aloof in their parenting style and often too busy with matters of Queenship to be much concerned over their children. The job of caring for royal children was often shuffled off to high-ranking members of society who saw it not as a burden but as a rare honor and privilege. From virtually the moment of birth, Queens of medieval society vacated their responsibilities. To breastfeed one’s own child was unbecoming of their station and thus, the honor was passed to a wet-nurse and a number of attendants. From royal cradle rockers and beyond, A queen’s place was by the side of her husband and within her court. Children would be established in their own residences where their education and upbringing was monitored by those appointed to do so. That is not to say that a Queen did not care greatly for her children but it was merely the way of it. As best stated in Virtuous or Villainess? The Image of the Royal Mother from the Early Medieval to the Early Modern Era: “On the one hand, the royal mother is expected to produce and nurture future heirs who will ensure dynastic and political security, but on the other, a woman who appeared to have too much influence was seen as meddling, overwhelming in her authority, and a threat to the stability of the realm.” Due to this, Elizabeth of York would be expected to do much the same.

However, it is worth noting that Elizabeth’s own childhood was less than traditional by standards of the day. Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth of Woodville, had stolen herself and her family to the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey twice. First when Edward IV was forced to flee England due to the rebellion of his once allies; George, Duke of Clarence and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. It was there that she’d give birth to her son and heir, Edward. The second time would be when her brother-in-law took possession of that same Edward and seized the title of Lord Protector. Rife with instability, Elizabeth would have likely spent vast amounts of time with her mother and her siblings. It is reasonable to suggest that her bond would have been more familial than most of her station due to this. Additionally, Elizabeth Woodville was a commoner before her royal marriage and was likely to have a much more hands on approach to parenting due to this. Thus, it is not difficult to suggest that Elizabeth of York’s relationship with her children would be reflective of her own childhood.



Little is known about Henry’s early life before the death of Arthur. It seemed almost not worth recording to contemporary scholars at the time. Incredulously, Henry’s grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, would incorrectly label his birth in her Book of Hours and seemed to amend it at a later date. However, it is within his obscurity that we may better understand Henry’s relationship with his mother. The evidence of deviation in royal protocol lays in an unexpected yet obvious place; Henry’s handwriting. As noted in David Starkey’s Mind Of A Tyrant series, Henry’s handwriting is uniquely his own and nothing like that of his tutor. Instead, it is much like his Queenly mother’s which suggests that she was the one to teach him in the first place. Though there is little known evidence of Elizabeth’s handwriting that remains, what we do have shows staunch similarities even to the untrained eye. Furthermore, Starkey recalls “it’s characteristic enough in weight, rhythm and letter forms to prove conclusively, I think, that Elizabeth was the first teacher of her daughters and her second son, Henry.”

Though we may never know the true extent of the bond between the two, the mere suggestion that the future King would be tutored firstly by his own mother allows us to better understand the man himself. Be it his devastation in the face of her death which smacks of modern maternal bonds, or how it later shaped him. All of this provides modern audiences with the early operative pieces of what was to be a Freudian daydream. In so many ways, the new age idealism that Henry aspired to can be traced back to Elizabeth of York and the marriage that begot him. His desire to love the woman he married was in homage to his father who was thought to never stray from his marital bed. The traits of loyalty, fidelity and humility which he sought most in a wife, was a mold first cast by his mother. A mold that had not had time to be broken due to her early and untimely death. Freudian theory tells us that his mother would have become something of an idolatrous figure for him. Aspiring to a flawless and immortal figure which could never belong to this life. All of this and more proves that while Elizabeth’s body may have been laid to rest in ceremony and pomp in the luxury of Westminster Abbey, her presence was very much there in Henry. All of his decisions regarding love, loss, standard and ultimately what it was to be King was due in part to her. That figure of the old world who died in the new. She who heralded the dynasty which would become the stuff of speculation for centuries to come; Elizabeth of York.

Sources:

Weir, A. (2014). Elizabeth of York.
“Elizabeth of York: a Tudor of Rare Talent.” History Extra, 7 Aug. 2018, http://www.historyextra.com/period/tudor/elizabeth-of-york-a-tudor-of-rare-talent/.
“Sir Thomas More: ‘A Rueful Lamentation’, 1503 [Poem on the Death of Queen Elizabeth of York].” The Life of Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/ruefullamentation.htm.
“The Vaux Passional.” Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – The National Library of Wales: Aberdulais Mill, Glamorgan, http://www.library.wales/discover/digital-gallery/manuscripts/the-middle-ages/the-vaux-passional/.
Wight, Colin. “Beaufort Book of Hours.” The British Library, The British Library, 24 Apr. 2012, http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/henryviii/birthaccdeath/beaufort/index.html.
Fleiner, Carey, and Elena Woodacre. Virtuous or Villainess?: the Image of the Royal Mother from the Early Medieval to the Early Modern Era. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Starkey, David. Mind Of A Tyrant.



Most Influential Tudor Women: Margaret Beaufort

On my Facebook page called, Tudors Dynasty, I asked my followers who they believed to be the most influential women of the Tudor era. It is because of this poll that I decided to turn this into a series of episodes about some amazing Tudor women.

Before I start, let’s understand what influential truly means.

The Definition of Influential is: having great influence on someone or something.

Now that we know the definition of the word, does that change our ideas about who we believe were some of the most influential of the Tudor period?



Poll Results

When I posed this question on my blog and took a poll, the winner was, with 35% of the votes, Queen Elizabeth I, followed by her great-grandmother, Margaret Beaufort with 27% and rounding off the top three was her mother, Anne Boleyn with 19%. I honestly was not too surprised by the results.

Since I have already done a six-part series on Elizabeth I decided to do this episode on Margaret Beaufort – someone whom many of you have requested I talk more about.

With that, this article could not have happened without the wonderful guidance of Susan Abernethy and her website, The Freelance History Writer. Susan is also the admin for the Facebook page, Tudor History Lovers.

So, here we go…

Margaret Beaufort

Let’s talk about Margaret Beaufort. Authors like Philippa Gregory have not done Margaret the justice she deserves. While Gregory used to be one of my favorite Historical Fiction authors, I agree with many that her dislike for Beaufort is evident in her books.

Margaret lived quite an amazing life. Born on the 31st of May 1443, Margaret was the daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset and Margaret Beauchamp. Margaret’s father was the grandson of the well-known, John of Gaunt and his mistress (whom later he married) Katherine Swynford.

Margaret Beaufort was married several times. Not unusual for the time. Her first marriage (which may have only been a betrothal) was around 1450 – Margaret was merely six or seven years old and she wed John de la Pole. Pole’s father, the Earl of Suffolk had arranged the marriage. Whether or not there was an actual marriage is unclear but Margaret was returned to her mother and it is agreed that the marriage was never consummated. However, when the Earl of Suffolk was disgraced in 1450, their marriage (or betrothal) was voided. It was as if the marriage never happened and later in life Margaret never considered him as one of her husbands.

That same year Edmund and Jasper Tudor were granted her wardship by their half-brother, King Henry VI.



Genealogy

Before I go forward, for those unfamiliar with their genealogy, the King, Edmund and Jasper all shared the same mother, Katherine of Valois. Katherine was the wife of King Henry V and they had a son, Henry, who became the Sixth King Henry upon the death of his father and predecessor.

Katherine, still young (not quite 21) and stunningly beautiful fell in love with Owen Tudor (a member of her household), they may have secretly wed (there is no evidence available to prove a marriage) but we do know that they were the parents of Edmund and Jasper. Following along?

First Marriage

Some have speculated that Henry VI planned the wardship of 1453 so that one of his half-brothers could wed Margaret, who was a surviving member of the House of Lancaster. Two years later (1455) Margaret, then twelve years old married Edmund who was twenty-two and the Earl of Richmond.

Even though Margaret was only twelve at the time of their marriage the marriage was consummated and Margaret soon became pregnant. Margaret was just a child by today’s standards and physically she most definitely was still very petite.

In August of 1456, while Margaret was pregnant with his child, Edmund Tudor was captured by an ally of the Duke of York and imprisoned. He died three months later of the plague at Carmarthen Castle. After the death of her husband, the heavily pregnant thirteen year-old girl placed herself under the protection of Jasper Tudor, her brother-in-law at Pembroke Castle, the place her son Henry (named for King Henry VI) was born at the end of January 1457.

Wars of the Roses

Shall we discuss briefly the Wars of the Roses briefly?

The Wars of the Roses were the civil wars fought in England and Wales between the Houses of York and Lancaster between 1455 and 1485 and most definitely ended with the battle of Bosworth in 1485, when the army of Henry Tudor (the future Henry VII, the first Tudor king) killed Richard III. In my opinion, the battles began when King Henry VI could no longer rule his country due to his health condition. What was his health condition?

From HenryVI.com:

The great disorder or illness that struck down King Henry in August 1453 and kept him in what appears to have been a catatonic stupor for over a year. The causes are still not known to modern medicine. Most modern diagnoses of the King’s illness tentatively identify it as catatonic schizophrenia. Henry’s maternal grandfather King Charles VI of France suffered from recurring, severe bouts of “madness”, during which he became dangerously violent, did not recognise his wife or the fact that he was king.

When the Henry VI was having one of his bouts was about the time that Richard, Duke of York (father of Edward IV and Richard III) began to fight for what he believed was his rightful place on the throne of England. Anyway, I digress – Back to Margaret.



Birth of Henry Tudor & Second Marriage

At thirteen years old, the birth of her son had been hard on the young woman’s body. It is believed that Margaret suffered permanent damage from childbirth and would have no other children.

For the first year of Henry’s life Margaret remained at Pembroke with her brother-in-law. She had asked Jasper for assistance in finding her a second husband. Finally an agreement was made and Margaret married the Duke of Buckingham’s son, Henry Stafford in January 1458. After the wedding, young Henry stayed in the custody of his uncle Jasper and Margaret and her husband made regular visits.

Separated From Her Son

Unfortunately their happiness would not last long when in 1461, Edward, Earl of March became King Edward IV, Margaret’s son’s wardship was sold to a Yorkist supporter – Lord Herbert. Luckily for Margaret she was still able to schedule regular visits to see her son and when she could not see him she would send letters to Lord Herbert asking about her son’s well-being.

The Battle of Barnet, in April 1471, was a game changer for Margaret and her little family. Her husband was wounded and had to return home due to his injuries. Less than a month later there was another Yorkist victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury. It was at Tewkesbury that Henry VI’s wife, Margaret of Anjou was defeated and their son Edward was killed.

Roughly a week after the Battle of Tewkesbury, Henry VI, who had been locked in the Tower was killed – or murdered.

Because of the death of Henry VI, Margaret Beaufort and her son held the strongest claim to the English throne on the Lancastrian side. Because of those claims, young Henry’s life was in danger as he posed a threat to Edward IV and the House of York – because of that Jasper Tudor fled England with Henry and ended up in Brittany.

Six months after he sustained his injuries at the Battle of Barnet, Margaret’s second husband (Henry Stafford) died, most likely from his wounds.



Third Marriage

Margaret, a Lancastrian (with rights to the throne) was in danger without a husband during the reign of the Yorkist, Edward IV. Eight months after the death of her second husband, Margaret married for a third time to Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby. With Stanley’s influence and position at court Margaret was able to protect her land and wealth, but Stanley, as her husband, would now have access to it all – so it benefited him in the long run.

Since her new husband was tight with King Edward IV both Stanley and Margaret did spend time at court. It does not appear, however, that their marriage was necessarily a happy one. That is no unusual as many marriages during the time were arranged and did not happen out of love.

While at the court of Edward IV, Margaret tried everything in her power to return her son Henry to favor.

It wasn’t until 1476 that she gained favor with the Queen consort, Elizabeth Woodville and six years later Margaret was given the honor of holding Princess Bridget at her christening.

After ingratiating herself with the King and Queen she was able to persuade Edward IV to allow her son, Henry to return to England. Part of the deal was that they had also discussed a marriage between their daughter the Princess Elizabeth and Henry Tudor. Unfortunately, before the deal could be finalized Edward IV died. Henry could not yet return to England – it was not safe.

Reign of Richard III

Margaret and her son were once again thrown into political uncertainty with the reign of the new young King Edward V. Because of the young King’s youth his uncle and protector, Richard of Gloucester had the children of his brother (Edward IV) and Elizabeth Woodville declared illegitimate due to a marriage between the deceased King and Eleanor Butler prior to his marriage to Woodville. The next in line to the throne after Edward’s children was….you called it, Richard. He then became Richard III.

Richard did not have an easy time of it. There were many who believed what he had done was completely unacceptable (especially Elizabeth Woodville) and would do whatever it took to remove the usurper.

This was about the time that Margaret Beaufort and dowager queen Elizabeth Woodville began to discuss more seriously a marriage between their children. This marriage would benefit both parties and the two women were eager to see it come to fruition.

Richard III at the time was not sure who he could trust, I mean, it was really his own fault. Did he truly believe that his nieces and nephews were illegitimate? Or did he just use it as an excuse for his ambition? Since Richard did not know for sure if Stanley, the husband of a Lancastrian heir would be loyal to him, he imprisoned him for a short while. Once Stanley had declared his support for Richard III he was released. Surprisingly, both Stanley and Margaret took part in the coronation of Richard and his consort, Anne Neville. Margaret had gained enough favor that she carried the queen’s train.

Henry was constantly on Margaret’s mind. All she wanted for her son was to regain his titles and lands that were stripped from him when Edward IV came to throne. In addition, she wished for her son to return to England after YEARS in exile.

With the help of her nephew, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret felt confident that her son could return to England and fight for the Crown.

When Richard III discovered the plot to remove him from the throne, the Duke of Buckingham was apprehended and executed. Margaret’s life was spared (only because of Stanley’s loyalty to the king) but she was attained for treason by Parliament and sentenced to life in prison (really house arrest) – her goods and lands were also confiscated by the Crown.

Battle of Bosworth

Even though Margaret was under house arrest she was still able to keep in contact with her son. By the Summer of 1485, Henry was on his way to England with his uncle Jasper and troops. It was the Battle of Bosworth that changed the course of history when the troops of Henry Tudor (along with the help of his step-father) defeated and killed Richard III.

Henry Tudor became King Henry VII of England when Richard III took his last breath and his army was defeated.

Margaret, at least for a moment, could breathe a sigh of relief. She was released from her house arrest (and obviously got back her goods and land) and after fourteen years apart the mother and son were reunited.



Henry VII

With her son was back in England and now King, the marriage she had planned with Elizabeth Woodville happened on the 18th of January 1486, about two months after his coronation. This marriage combined together the Houses of York and Lancaster, effectively ending the War of the Roses.

From day one of Henry’s reign Margaret was by her son’s side. He had been away from England for over a decade and she was able to offer him advice on politics when needed. Margaret also played an important role in Henry’s new reign as she assisted in many matters including ceremonies and special commissions.

I love this next part – due to her new position as My Lady, the King’s Mother, Margaret was able to gain independence from her husband. This allowed her to have sole claim to all her property and land. Almost unheard of back then.

Margaret may have also been a mother-in-law from hell. Poor Elizabeth of York (who had been raised to marry one day and become a consort) was overshadowed by Margaret who essentially acted like she was Queen.

When it came to her grandchild, Margaret was delighted. She is said to have had a special relationship with her grandson, Henry.

From Susan Abernethy and her website, thefreelancehistorywriter.com:

In her later years Margaret made significant religious, educational and literary contributions. She became a patron and benefactor of two colleges at Cambridge University.

Margaret would just barely outlive her son, Henry VII who died in April 1509. She was able to witness the wedding of her grandson Henry to Katherine of Aragon and then the dual coronation. Margaret passed away on the 29th of June 1509 – five days after Henry’s coronation.

After years of upheaval and struggles, Margaret Beaufort could finally rest in peace knowing that the Tudor name would be carried on through her grandson Henry VIII. Little did she know how it would all play out. The Tudor dynasty reigned 118 years.

Sources:

https://thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2014/01/10/lady-margaret-beaufort-the-kings-mother/

https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/lady-margaret-beaufort/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Beaufort,_Countess_of_Richmond_and_Derby

https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/12-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-the-wars-of-the-roses/


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The Enigmatic Elizabeth Woodville (Guest Post)

The Enigmatic Elizabeth Woodville

By Samantha Wilcoxson for Tudors Dynasty

What did Elizabeth know? We love to use the actions of Elizabeth Woodville to support any argument regarding the events of 1483, assuming that she had greater knowledge than we possess and that her actions would be the same as ours in light of it. She went into sanctuary because she knew Richard was a ruthless killer….she left because she knew he was not. She betrothed her daughter to Henry Tudor because she knew her own sons were dead….she supported rebels at Stoke because she knew at least one of them was alive. What did Elizabeth really know?

How I wish that we could ask her! When I decided to write about Elizabeth Woodville in Once a Queen, I decided to explore her predicament through the assumption that she did not know any more than I do over 500 years later. What would it be like to make the decisions that Elizabeth had to make regarding her own life and her children’s futures without the benefit of all the answers that we like to assume she had. What mental anguish would it cause to decide who your eldest daughter should marry if you are uncertain whether or not her brother, who should be king, is even alive?

Did she believe that her sons were dead? If she did, who did she believe killed them? Instead of writing a story filled with anger and vengeance, I decided to explore the anxiety of the unknown. In Once a Queen, Elizabeth has no idea what is true or who she can trust. Yet, time will not stand still for her to discover the answers. The woman who so often comes across as scheming and unsympathetic is suddenly a tragic figure, struggling to secure a future for her remaining children.

We may not be able to surmise the answers to any mysteries by analyzing the actions of Elizabeth Woodville, but we can appreciate her story and her position in history. Sharing the feelings and emotions of those living through historic times has the power to impact us more than knowing all the right answers. That being said, if anyone ever discovers the secret diary of Elizabeth Woodville, I will be among the first to read it!

Click to go to Amazon.com

About the Author

Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer with British roots. When she is not reading or travelling, she enjoys spending time at the lake with her husband and three teenagers.

The Plantagenet Embers series debuted with ‘Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York’. It has been selected as an Editors’ Choice by the Historical Novel Society and long-listed for the 2016 HNS Indie Award.

‘Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole’ is the second novel in the trilogy, continuing the story of the Plantagenet remnant in Tudor times. This novel has received 5-stars from Readers’ Favorite and a Discovering Diamond award.

The recently released final installment in Plantagenet Embers, Queen of Martyrs, features Queen Mary I and her story of the counter-reformation in England.


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Portraits of a Queen: Elizabeth of York

portraits-of-a-queen-elizabeth-of-york

Portraits of a Queen: Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth Plantagenet was the oldest child and daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville (Wydville). She was considered very beautiful and had been promised in marriage a few times before her mother and Margaret Beaufort arranged her marriage with Henry Tudor. The marriage would inevitably end the Wars of the Roses and bring together the House of York and Lancaster.

As queen consort, Elizabeth brought forth one of the most memorable dynasties in English history – she, of course, gave birth to the future Henry VIII. Her daughter Margaret married the Scottish King James IV, and her descendants still live on today through the current monarch – Elizabeth II.

unknown artist; Elizabeth of York (1466-1503), Queen Consort of Henry VII; Trinity College, University of Cambridge; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14661503-queen-consort-of-henry-vii-134829
unknown artist; Elizabeth of York (1466-1503), Queen Consort of Henry VII; Trinity College, University of Cambridge; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14661503-queen-consort-of-henry-vii-134829

 

ca. 1825 — This illustration was published in . — Image by © Stapleton Collection/Corbis

 

english-sch-elizabeth-of-york-framed-z
Portrait of Elizabeth of York (1466-1503);16th Century English School – Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.

 

unknown artist; Elizabeth of York; National Portrait Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-158157
unknown artist; Elizabeth of York; National Portrait Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-158157

 

British (English) School; Elizabeth of York (1465/1466-1503), Holding the Yorkist White Rose; National Trust, Dunham Massey; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-146514661503-holding-the-yorkist-white-rose-130730
British (English) School; Elizabeth of York (1465/1466-1503), Holding the Yorkist White Rose; National Trust, Dunham Massey; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-146514661503-holding-the-yorkist-white-rose-130730

 

British (English) School; Elizabeth of York (1466-1503), Queen Consort of Henry VII; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14661503-queen-consort-of-henry-vii-169934
British (English) School; Elizabeth of York (1466-1503), Queen Consort of Henry VII; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14661503-queen-consort-of-henry-vii-169934

 

 

Alexander, Cosmo; Elizabeth of York; The National Trust for Scotland, Mar Lodge Estate; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-197159
Alexander, Cosmo; Elizabeth of York; The National Trust for Scotland, Mar Lodge Estate; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-197159

 

elizabeth_of_york_by_william_thomas_fry
Elizabeth of York by William Thomas Fry

 

unknown artist; Elizabeth of York (1465-1503); Christ Church, University of Oxford; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14651503-229294
unknown artist; Elizabeth of York (1465-1503); Christ Church, University of Oxford; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14651503-229294

 

Burchett, Richard; Eliz.th of York (Elizabeth of York); Parliamentary Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/eliz-th-of-york-elizabeth-of-york-213744
Burchett, Richard; Eliz.th of York (Elizabeth of York); Parliamentary Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/eliz-th-of-york-elizabeth-of-york-213744

 

credit unknown
credit unknown

 

(c) National Trust, Nostell Priory; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) National Trust, Nostell Priory; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Other images:

van Leemput, Remi; Henry VII (1457-1509), Queen Elizabeth (of York) (1466-1503), Henry VIII (1491-1547), Queen Jane Seymour (1509-1537), and Edward VI (1537-1553), as Prince of Wales; National Trust, Petworth House; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/henry-vii-14571509-queen-elizabeth-of-york-14661503-henry-viii-14911547-queen-jane-seymour-15091537-and-edward-vi-15371553-as-prince-of-wales-219567
van Leemput, Remi; Henry VII (1457-1509), Queen Elizabeth (of York) (1466-1503), Henry VIII (1491-1547), Queen Jane Seymour (1509-1537), and Edward VI (1537-1553), as Prince of Wales; National Trust, Petworth House; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/henry-vii-14571509-queen-elizabeth-of-york-14661503-henry-viii-14911547-queen-jane-seymour-15091537-and-edward-vi-15371553-as-prince-of-wales-219567

 

eliz2
Funeral Effigy of Elizabeth of York

 

elizabeth_of_york_-_funeral_effigy
Funeral Effigy of Elizabeth of York

 

funeral_effigy_of_elizabeth_york
Funeral Effigy of Elizabeth of York

 

henry_vii_elizabeth_of_york_westminster
Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York on their tomb in Westminster Abbey

 

queen_of_hearts_elizabeth_of_york
Elizabeth of York has been immortalized on decks of playing cards throughout English history as the ‘Queen of Hearts’, holding a Tudor Rose.


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The Life and Love of the Pretender

the-life-and-love-of-the-pretender

During the reign of King Henry VII, the “Pretender,” Perkin Warbeck claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, the second son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. At the time it was very significant for Warbeck to come forward as the Duke of York because there were still many Yorkist supporters — Henry VII had only reigned for a short time and some noblemen and subjects alike had hoped for a York resurrection. If he were indeed the son of the late King Edward IV the throne of England should, in many people’s eyes, be his for the taking – regardless of the fact that Henry Tudor won the crown in battle.

When Edward IV died in 1483, his eldest son Edward, Prince of Wales became Edward V. Edward was only a child of twelve at the time and could not rule England outright. His uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester was the only surviving brother of the late King and was named Lord Protector of the realm until Edward came of age.

Unfortunately this would not be enough for Richard. He had placed both Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York in the Tower. Richard, Duke of Gloucester claimed it was in preparation of the coronation of Edward V, but the boys would never leave the Tower. That we know of.

The Duke of Gloucester declared the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville invalid and therefore their children illegitimate – this meant that Richard, Duke of Gloucester was now the rightful heir to the throne. He became King Richard III (1483-1485) and the boys were never seen or heard from again.

Flash forward to 1490 at the court in Burgundy — Perkin Warbeck claimed to be Richard, Duke of York.  At court he was recognized by Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy. Margaret was the sister of the late Edward IV and Richard III. She would surely recognize her nephew, right? That question is one that we will never truly know the answer to.

Hailed as the rightful heir to the throne of England, Richard (aka Warbeck) set out to reclaim his father’s throne. But England already had a king: the first of the Tudors, Henry VII. Henry proclaimed the young man an imposter and nicknamed him “Perkin Warbeck”, but he behaved—not as if the young man was an upstart—but as if he faced the clash of another legitimate claimant. –On the Tudor Trail

A Tale of True Adventure: The Boy Who Pretended He Was King. Original artwork from Look and Learn no. 180 (26 June 1965).
A Tale of True Adventure: The Boy Who Pretended He Was King. Original artwork from Look and Learn no. 180 (26 June 1965).

Warbeck wrote to Isabella of Castile (mother to Katherine of Aragon) in 1493:

“I myself, then nearly nine years of age, was also delivered to a certain Lord to be killed, [but] it pleased Divine Clemency, that lord, having compassion on my innocence, preserved me alive in safety: first, however, causing me to swear on the holy sacrament that to no one should I disclose my name, origin, or family, until a certain number of years had passed. He then sent me therefore abroad, with two persons, who should watch over and take charge of me;  and thus I, an orphan, bereaved of my royal father and brother, an exile from my kingdom, and deprived of my country, inheritance and fortune, a fugitive in the midst of extreme perils, led my miserable life, in fear, and weeping, and grief, and for the space of nearly eight years lay hid…scarcely had I emerged from childhood alone and without means, I remained for a time in the kingdom of Portugal, and thence sailed to Ireland, where being recognised by illustrious lords, the earl of Desmond and Kildare, my cousins, as also by other noblemen of the island, I was received with great joy and honour. -Richard” - British Library MS Egerton 616), as quoted by I. Arthurson in The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy, P. 49-50

Soon Warbeck would gain support from others including King James IV of Scotland. The Scottish King was not exactly on the friendliest of terms with the English King (Henry VII) and would take this opportunity in an attempt to dethrone him and have the presumptive English King (Warbeck) as an ally. In order for James IV to seal the friendship and alliance with Warbeck he betrothed his cousin Lady Katherine Gordon to the young man.

In December 1495, Perkin Warbeck wrote this letter to Lady Katherine Gordon:

scottish womanMost noble lady, it is not without reason that all turn their eyes to you; that all admire, love, and obey you. For they see your two-fold virtues by which you are so much distinguished above all other mortals. Whilst, on the one hand, they admire your riches and immutable prosperity, which secure to you the nobility of your lineage and the loftiness of your rank, they are, on the other hand, struck by your rather divine than human beauty, and believe that you are not born in our days, but descended from Heaven.

All look at your face, so bright and serene that it gives splendour to the cloudy sky ; all look at your eyes as brilliant as stars, which make all pain to be forgotten, and turn despair into delight ; all look at your neck, which outshines pearls ; all look at your fine forehead, your purple light of youth, your fair hair ; in one word, at the splendid perfection of your person ;—and looking at, they cannot choose but admire you ; admiring, they cannot choose but love you ; loving, they cannot choose but obey you.

I shall, perhaps, be the happiest of all your admirers, and the happiest man on earth, since I have reason to hope you will think me worthy of your love. If I represent to my mind all your perfections, I am not only compelled to love, to adore, and to worship you, but love makes me your slave. Whether waking or sleeping, I cannot find rest or happiness except in your affection. All my hopes rest in you, and in you alone.
Most noble lady, my soul, look mercifully down upon me your slave, who has ever been devoted to you from the first hour he saw you. Love is not an earthly thing, it is heaven born. Do not think it below yourself to obey love’s dictates. Not only kings, but also gods and goddesses have bent their necks beneath its yoke.

I beseech you, most noble lady, to accept for ever one who in all things will cheerfully do your will as long as his days shall last. Farewell, my soul and my consolation. You, the brightest ornament of Scotland, farewell, farewell. -‘Spain: December 1495’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 1, 1485-1509, ed. G A Bergenroth (London, 1862), pp. 72-79

In 1497 Warbeck traveled again with two or three small vessels – he was accompanied by his wife, Katherine. After departing Scotland Warbeck crossed to Ireland. When he arrived he found no allies and was being pursued by the Earl of Kildare. In a country that had supported the House of York Warbeck was sadly not welcomed, so he sailed to Devon. On 7 September, he was joined by a crowd of people who had recently revolted against excessive taxation. He continued to Exeter, but was unable to master the town. As Henry VII’s troops approached Warbeck deserted his followers and ran for refuge to the sanctuary of Beaulieu in Hampshire where he surrendered.

Henry VII receives Lady Katherine Gordon
Henry VII receives Lady Katherine Gordon

After Warbeck’s capture his wife Katherine was treated kindly and placed in the household of Queen Elizabeth of York – the queen of Henry VII. Who, if Warbeck was indeed the Duke of York, was her sister-in-law. I often wonder what Elizabeth of York thought of all of this.

“Henry allowed Warbeck to remain at court where he could be watched. However, he foolishly tried to run away which seemed to emphasise his treachery. Warbeck was put in the stocks, humiliated and sent to the Tower. Clearly after being generous to the pretender, Henry’s patience had run out. In 1499, Warbeck was charged with trying to escape for a second time, found guilty and hanged on November 23rd 1499″.– The History Learning Site

hanging of perkin warbeck
The hanging of Perkin Warbeck, the “Pretender”

The ultimate fate of Perkin Warbeck came about because of his own choice to try to escape. I often wonder what would have happened to him if he had not done so. I tend to romanticize things, and in doing so I honestly believe that Warbeck was indeed Richard, Duke of York. I like to believe that he was who he said he was. That he was sent away from court (and replaced with a local boy) by his mother Elizabeth Woodville so that she could make sure at least one of her sons were safe. We can all understand why Elizabeth wouldn’t trust Richard III after he claimed her marriage to his brother was invalid – oh, and the part where he had her son Sir Richard Grey and brother Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers executed on 25 June 1483.

It’s possible that we may never know who Perkin Warbeck truly was, and until then we can only speculate. Were the skeletal remains of the two young boys found in the Tower of London indeed the Princes in the Tower? Was Perkin Warbeck really Richard, Duke of York? Did Elizabeth of York recognize her younger brother, and was she unable to do everything in her power to save him from certain death?

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