Book Review: “John Morton: Adversary to Richard III, Power Behind the Tudors” by Stuart Bradley

51+Uk6sMNqL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)In history, many people tend to focus on the big names. The kings and queens, the rebels, and those who really made an impact. The political advisors and men of the church tend to get left behind in the dust since they are not seen as “important”. However, it is these men who were the backbone of the monarchy, who helped make the king’s vision come to fruition. They tend to come and go, so that is why John Morton’s story is so extraordinary. John Morton helped three separate kings of England, was the enemy to a fourth king, tried to reform the church, and had numerous building projects. His life tends to be overshadowed by the kings that he served, but his life is brought into the light in this biography by Stuart Bradley, “John Morton: Adversary to Richard III, Power Behind the Tudors”.

I would like to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. Morton’s life and his service to the kings he served was rather fascinating to read about and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Like any good biography, Bradley begins by exploring John Morton’s life before he moved up the ranks to work with kings through his collegiate career, which was rather impressive. It is imperative to understand Morton’s education and background to show what type of skills he brought to the political and ecclesiastical positions that he would have later on in his life. Morton caught the eye of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bourgchier, who helped Morton get into his position as Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall, which put him in direct contact with Prince Edward of Westminster, Queen Margaret of Anjou, and King Henry VI. He served King Henry VI until his death in 1471. 

Morton could have decided to live as an exile during the reign of Edward IV, but instead, he accepted a royal pardon and decided to work with the Yorkist king. This may seem like an unusual step for a man who was once loyal to the Lancasterian cause, but Morton was loyal to his country first and foremost. During this time, he helped establish peace with France and became the Bishop of Ely. When Edward IV died and his sons disappeared from records, Morton could have retired, since he was in his mid-sixties at this point, but instead, he leads a rebellion against King Richard III, with young Henry Tudor as his choice for the next king. Morton helped arrange for Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York to be married, as well as help Henry VII stop the pretenders from taking the English throne. Under King Henry VII, Morton worked non-stop as both Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury, to guide the king and to ensure the survival of the dynasty, until his death in 1500.

It is remarkable to see how much Morton did during his lifetime in politics, for the church, and the building projects. Morton was one of those figures that I honestly did not know a lot about before I read this book, but now I want to know more about him. Bradley obviously thoroughly researched Morton’s life and times and is able to articulate this research in this engaging biography. If you want a fantastic biography about a rather remarkable man who helped England navigate through the Wars of the Roses and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty, I highly recommend you read, “John Morton: Adversary to Richard III, Power Behind the Tudors” by Stuart Bradley.

Biography: Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham

Henry_Stafford(Born September 4, 1454- Died November 2, 1483). Son of Humphrey, Earl of Stafford and Margaret Beaufort, daughter of Edmund Beaufort 2nd Duke of Somerset. Married to Catherine Woodville, the sister of Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Father of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, Elizabeth Stafford, Henry Stafford, 1st Earl of Wiltshire and Anne Stafford. Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham would become one of Richard III’s most trusted advisors, but he would switch sides and side with Henry Tudor, leading to his ultimate execution.

Henry Stafford was born on September 4, 1454 to Humphrey Earl of Stafford and Margaret Beaufort, the daughter of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset. Henry’s father, Humphrey Stafford, was killed at the first battle of St. Albans in 1455. His grandfather Humphrey the 1st Duke of Buckingham was killed at Northampton in 1460. Both men were fighting for the Lancastrian cause. His grandfather, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, gained his title from his mother and was the son of Edmund, 5th Earl of Stafford, and of Anne, daughter of Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, youngest son of Edward III. His mother was Margaret Beaufort (not to be confused with Margaret Beaufort mother of Henry Tudor), daughter of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, grandson of John of Gaunt. When his grandfather passed away, the title of Duke of Buckingham passed onto Henry at the tender age of 4. With the royal blood on both sides of his family plus his title and inheritance, Henry’s future was very important to Edward IV.

In 1466, Henry Stafford married Catherine Woodville, the sister of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, and became the brother-in-law to the king Edward IV. Henry and Catherine had four children; Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, Elizabeth Stafford, Henry Stafford, 1st Earl of Wiltshire and Anne Stafford. In 1474, Henry was made a Knight of the Garter and in 1478, he was a high steward at the trial of George, 1st Duke of Clarence. After Edward IV’s death on April 9, 1483, Henry decided to join forces with Richard Duke of Gloucester.
It was Buckingham who helped Richard obtain possession of the young King Edward V. For helping Richard, he was rewarded with the offices of Justiciar and Chamberlain of North and South Wales, and Constable of all the royal castles in the principality and Welsh Marches. According to Sir Thomas More, it was Buckingham who gave a speech at Guildhall on June 24, 1483 to the people to make Richard Duke of Gloucester king.

Richard Duke of Gloucester became King Richard III and Buckingham served as chamberlain and later Constable of England. Richard III thought that he could trust Buckingham as one of his right hand men, but he was sadly mistaken. In early August, Buckingham withdrew from court to Brecon, a town in Wales. Some say that he withdrew because he believed that he deserved more for his services to Richard III, others believe that he became disgusted with Richard III, or that he had his own desire for the crown since he did have royal blood in his veins. What we do know is that he began talking with a man name John Morton, who was a prisoner in the custody of Buckingham. Morton told him about a young Henry Tudor and Buckingham decided to support Henry Tudor and his mother Margaret Beaufort to have Henry Tudor replace Richard III as king of England.

A widespread plot was soon formed, but Richard had early warning, and on October 15, 1483, he issued a proclamation against Buckingham. Buckingham, as arranged, prepared to enter England with a large force of Welshmen. Buckingham’s troops were stopped by a massive flood on the Severn and he himself took refuge with a follower, Ralph Bannister, at Lacon Hall. Bannister betrayed him for a large reward, and on the November 1, 1483, Buckingham was brought to the king at Salisbury. Buckingham never saw Richard III and right after his trial on November 2, 1483, a Sunday, he was beheaded in the courtyard between the Blue Boar Inn and the Sarcen’s Head Inn near the marketplace at Salisbury. He died at the age of 29 and his titles and honors were forfeited.