Book Review: “Battle Royal- The Wars of the Roses: 1440-1462” by Hugh Bicheno

519b6FCcEGL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In recent years, the study of the English conflict known as the “Wars of the Roses” has become rather popular. The Lancasters and the Yorks fighting for the English throne. Only one can be the winner. When we do look at this time period, we tend to focus on the people involved in the battles and the political aspect of the conflict. The battles, how they were fought, and why the conflict started in the first place tend to be pushed to the sideline. That is not the case with this particular book. In Hugh Bicheno’s book, “Battle Royal- The Wars of the Roses: 1440-1462”, the political and military aspects combine with family histories for a comprehensive look into what made this time period so fascinating.

I came across this particular book by browsing the shelves at Barnes and Noble. I saw that it was about the Wars of the Roses, but I was not familiar with the author. I decided to give it a shot and I am so glad I did. This book is a delight and a fantastic resource.

Bicheno starts his book by exploring two extraordinary women whose families would shape the direction that the Wars of the Roses would take; Jacquetta Woodville and Catherine de Valois. Both women married for love and this love would shape who would win the crown of England, as Bicheno explains:

Sometimes love does conquer all: despite having turned their backs on the game of power, Catherine and Jacquetta became the common ancestors of every English monarch since 1485. Before that could happen, all those with a superior claim to the throne had first to wipe each other out. This they did in what was, in essence, a decades-long, murderously sordid dispute over an inheritance within a deeply dysfunctional extended family. It became merciless not despite but because the combatants had so much in common, and projected their own darkest intentions onto each other….it was an extraordinary period in English history. Four of the six kings crowned between 1399 and 1485 were usurpers who killed their predecessors, undermining the concept of divine right as well as the prestige of the ruling class. (Bicheno, 10-11).

Family drama is the center of Bicheno’s book so he spends several chapters laying out the major players and how they were related to one another. This can get a tad bit confusing for those who are not familiar with the story, so Bicheno has included family trees and a list of protagonists and marriages to help readers. I will say that they became very useful for me as I was reading this book and I would highly suggest you use the resources that Bicheno has included in this book for future research. Bicheno also included maps, which corresponded with the different battles that were important between 1440 and 1462, not only in England but in France, Wales, and Scotland as well.

What really impressed me about this book was the amount of detail that Bicheno was able to include and making it understandable for any casual student of the Wars of the Roses, yet engaging enough for a scholar. That is not an easy feat, but Bicheno is able to do it. He uses modern data with extensive research of historical documents, knowledge of medieval military strategies, and interpreting all of this information for modern readers, which included a few nods to a certain popular show(Game of Thrones) that is roughly based off of the events of this time period.

Hugh Bicheno breathes new life into the study of the Wars of the Roses. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first started reading this book, but I am extremely glad I did. Even if you think you know tons about the Wars of the Roses, this book will surprise you with new information and make you question your previous knowledge about the battles in the first part of this tumultuous time. If you have an interest in the Wars of the Roses and understanding how it occurred from a military and a political point of view, I highly suggest you read Hugh Bicheno’s book, “Battle Royal- The Wars of the Roses: 1440-1462”. It is an eye-opening, riveting reading experience.

Book Review: “Wars of the Roses: Bloodline” by Conn Iggulden

51nExUGFrkL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The deaths of the Duke of York, Earl Salisbury and Edmund Earl of Rutland at the Battle of Wakefield at the end of 1460 marked a changing point for how the Wars of the Roses was fought. Now it was not going to be simply a matter of who was going to be the King of England, but it was a war of revenge. What the Lancastrians did not realize at the time was the fact that these deaths would unleash two men who would mark the destruction of the Lancastrian cause; Edward Duke of York, the future King Edward IV, and Richard Neville Earl of Warwick “the Kingmaker”. In the third book of Conn Iggulden’s Wars of the Roses series called “Bloodline”, Iggulden explores the rise of these two dynamic men and how family matters tore the two best friends apart.

After the victory at Wakefield, Margaret of Anjou marched her Lancastrian forces to London, but they were not allowed to enter. The Lancastrians decided to keep marching until they meet the Yorkists at St. Albans for a rematch, on February 17, 1461. The Lancastrians were able to win the battle and regain control of King Henry VI. However, this was a small victory. After the defeat, Edward Duke of York decided to take up the claim to the throne that his father left behind, and declared himself King Edward IV of England. That’s right, there were two kings of England in 1461. Margaret of Anjou and the Lancastrians were not about to give without a fight. They met Edward IV, Warwick and the Yorkists forces outside Towton on March 29, 1461, during a snowstorm. The Battle of Towton is known to be the bloodiest battle on English soil and the way Iggulden described the onslaught is masterful. In the end, the Yorkists are victorious and Edward IV is officially the King of England while Henry VI is held captive in the Tower of London while Margaret of Anjou and her son flee to France for help.

After Towton, Edward IV and Warwick are closer than ever. Warwick wants to do what he can to help support his friend and king so he tries to arrange a marriage between Edward and a French princess, to form an alliance. However, Edward has other ideas and marries Elizabeth Woodville and decides to tell Warwick later. I find it fascinating that Iggulden decided to change how Edward and Elizabeth met as it is quite different from what traditionally is told about how they met, but it works really well. Edward’s brother George Duke of Clarence falls in love with Warwick’s daughter Isabel and wants to marry her.  This is the moment when Edward and Warwick really begin to feud.

Iggulden explains in his Historical Note why he decides to focus on this aspect of their relationship quite a bit:

In the first two books, I have tried to explore the sheer awe felt by some for the person of the king of England. It is the only thing that explains why King Henry remained alive despite being captured by York and held for months at a time. Yet it is also true of human nature that “awe” is less likely when one witnessed a boy growing up and becoming king. No man is a prophet in his own home- and Warwick was sufficiently exasperated with Edward and his wife to throw it all into the air and arrange Edward’s capture and imprisonment. (Iggulden, 402).

It is interesting to read about the relationship between these two friends and how that friendship turned into hatred because Edward decided to marry for love. Iggulden is able to capture the shifting relationships between the main characters extremely well in the third book of this amazing series. The blend of battles, political intrigue and romance is perfect and keeps the reader engaged. This is the fall of the Lancasters and the rise of the Yorks.  If you were a fan of the first two books of the Wars of the Roses series, I highly encourage you to read “Wars of the Roses: Bloodline” by Conn Iggulden.

Book Review: “Wars of the Roses: Trinity” by Conn Iggulden

61793uzwgql._sx324_bo12c2042c2032c200_England is on the brink of civil war. Families with royal blood in their veins are fighting amongst each other as King Henry VI has fallen ill.  Mistrust runs rampant and sacrifices are made in order to gain the throne. This is the England of 1454 and the beginning of the period in English history that we know today as the Wars of the Roses. Families like the Nevilles,  the Percys, and the houses of York, Lancaster, and Tudor would gain fame and infamy during this time. Conn Iggulden decided to explore this tumultuous time after the Jack Cade rebellion, which he explored in his first book “Stormbird”, in the second book of his “Wars of the Roses” series called “Trinity”.

Many who study the Wars of the Roses believe that it started in 1455 with the First Battle of St. Albans. However, Conn Iggulden begins “Trinity” with a conflict between the Percys and the Nevilles, which is known as the Battle of Heworth Moor. Iggulden explains why he chose this point to begin his story in his Historical Note:

The ambush by some seven hundred Percy retainers and servants on the Neville wedding party took place a little earlier than I have it here, in August 1453- around the same time King Henry VI fell into his senseless state. It was a key event among years of low-level fighting between the families as they struggled to control the north and widen their holdings. That attack by Thomas Percy, Baron Egremont, was one of the most brutal actions in that private war, sparked by the marriage of Salisbury’s son to the niece of Ralph Cromwell, a union which placed estates claimed by the Percy family into Neville hands. The ‘Battle of Heworth Moor’ failed in its main aim of slaughtering Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury. I have not included a dozen minor skirmishes, but that feud played a key part in deciding where the Nevilles and the Percys stood in the first battle of St. Albans in 1455- and its outcome. (Iggulden, 463).

The Battle of Heworth Moor is a unique place to start. We are thrust into the middle of the Percy family’s feud with the Nevilles. The plan is to attack the Nevilles during a wedding, but the Percys fail. It would not be a wedding that either family would forget for a long time. The Percy family decides to side with the Lancasters and the King, while the Nevilles side with the Yorkist cause. In the beginning, the Wars of the Roses was nothing but feuds between families to determine who should be taking care of the sick King Henry VI. Iggulden describes Henry VI in a way that shows the King as weak in body but his mind is sharp. When he wakes from his first bout of illness, he dismisses Richard Duke of York from being Lord Protector and reverses everything that  Richard did.

Richard and the Yorkist cause are not upset with the king, but rather those who they believe are responsible for being in control of the king; Queen Margaret of Anjou, the Duke of Somerset and the Nevilles. Anger boils until it bursts at the First Battle of St. Albans in 1455. This battle was so pivotal in the evolution of the conflict that Iggulden goes into great detail to explain how the battle unfolded. The Yorkist cause may have one the “first” battle of the Wars of the Roses, but it ignited a flame inside of Margaret of Anjou to not only protect her son and her husband but to also completely destroy Richard Duke of York. As the story progresses, we see both sides working hard to gain control of the king in a more complex version of “capture the king”.

Conn Iggulden delivers a high action and extremely descriptive sequel to “Stormbird” with “Trinity”. He incorporates beloved characters from the previous novel, like Margaret of Anjou and the charismatic Derry Brewer, with new faces like the Tudors, Thomas Percy Baron Egremont, Warwick, Richard Duke of York and his eldest son Edmund Earl of Rutland. Iggulden transports the reader to this volatile time in English history. This book is so engaging and it keeps the reader wanting more, so he included a side story that is equally entertaining. Once again, Iggulden makes the Wars of the Roses and all of its intrigue come alive. If you were a fan of Conn Iggulden’s first book in the “Wars of the Roses” series “Stormbird”, I strongly encourage you to read “Trinity”.   

Book Review: “Wars of the Roses: Stormbird” by Conn Iggulden

17830079The Wars of the Roses is often remembered for the battles that were fought in England. Bosworth. Towton. Barnet. Tewkesbury. These battles and the names of the men and women like Richard III, Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI, Richard Duke of York, Edward IV and the Tudors are etched into the history of England. However, what started this conflict was not on the battlefield, it was inside the English Court.  The decisions of a few men led to revolts that swept throughout England. So what was life like during this tumultuous time in English history? That is one of the questions that Conn Iggulden wanted to explore in his book series, “Wars of the Roses”. The first book in the series is called “Stormbird” and it explores the time after Henry VI marries Margaret of Anjou as well as Cade’s Rebellion, which wanted to tear England apart.

Conn Iggulden begins his book with the death of Edward III and his sons around his bedside, wondering what would happen to their beloved England. The sons of Edward III would become the patriarchs of some of the most important houses during the Wars of the Roses, York, and Lancaster. The story truly begins 66 years after the death of Edward III and young Henry VI is on the throne. Henry needed a truce with France and it was up to men who he could trust to make sure this happened. One of these men was William de la Pole, Duke of Somerset. The other, at least in “Stormbird”, was Henry VI’s spymaster Derihew “Derry” Brewer. Derry Brewer is a unique and complex character who works in the shadow to make sure that his king and his country are well protected. That includes arranging a marriage between Henry VI and the young Margaret of Anjou.

Margaret is portrayed as a caring and loving wife to Henry VI who will do anything to make sure her husband is taken care of and their young son is strong.  Their marriage seems happy, however, there are those who live outside the royal court who are suffering. With a weak leader and men who help the king lead making things worse,  the common people take it the hardest and they decide to do something about it. Led by a man named Jack Cade, the Cade’s Rebellion decides to march on London to overthrow the government.

In his Author’s Note, Conn Iggulden explains why he decided to focus a lot of his book to the riots and unrest in England:

Historical fiction sometimes involves filling in the gaps and unexplained parts of history. How is it that England could field fifty thousand men for the battle of Towton in 1461, but was able to send only four thousand to prevent the loss of Normandy a dozen years earlier? My assumption is that the unrest and riots in England put such a fear into the authorities that the major armies were kept at home. Jack Cade’s rebellion was only one of the most serious uprisings, after all. Rage at the loss of France, coupled with high taxes and a sense that the king was weak, brought England close to complete disaster at this time. Given that Cade breached the Tower of London, perhaps the court and Parliament were right to keep soldiers at home who could have been used to good effect in France. (Iggulden, 479).

“Stormbird” is a fantastic first book for Conn Iggulden’s “Wars of the Roses” series. It is filled with tons of battle scenes and intrigue. There were quite a few scenes where the amount of gruesome details made me cringe, but I wanted to read more. Iggulden was able to make this time before the actual Wars of the Roses come alive. Seeing both sides of the unrest, the commoners and those who served the king, really was intriguing. This was my first time reading a book by Conn Iggulden and I loved it. I look forward to reading the rest of the series and to see how he approaches the Wars of the Roses. If you want a great historical fiction book that is engaging about the unrest in England before the Wars of the Roses, I highly recommend “Wars of the Roses: Stormbird” by Conn Iggulden.

Book Review: “The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown” by Nathen Amin

51ygXgS66nL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The houses of York, Lancaster, the  Nevilles, the Howards, the Mowbrays, the Percys, and the Tudors are often recognized as the families involved in the Wars of the Roses. However, there was one more house that was just as important as the others; the Beauforts. The Beauforts were the sons and daughters of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and his mistress Katherine Swynford. They were considered bastards since they were born out of wedlock, yet they were connected to the house of Lancaster and rose to power by their own right. They would help change not only English history but the history of Europe forever. The Beauforts made a huge impact during the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses, yet many people only recognize Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Beaufort 2nd Duke of Somerset. The Beauforts don’t get much attention. Nathen Amin, the founder of The Henry Tudor Society, wanted to tell the story of this remarkable family.  It is in his book “The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown”, that the Beauforts are given the attention that they rightfully deserve.

Nathen Amin explains why he chose to focus on the Beauforts:

The Beauforts are a family often encountered when reading or studying the fifteenth century and the Wars of the Roses, although commonly relegated to supporting roles in the life and times of more prominent figures like Richard, duke of York, Edward IV, and Henry IV, V, and VI. They were always in the background, serving a king, counselling a king, and even fighting for or against a king. …Yet, there were few family units more influential in the governance of England during the period, and none more devoted to defending the Lancasterian dynasty, whether against France in the last vestiges of the Hundred Years War, or against the House of York in a new war of a very different kind. Born as bastards to a mighty prince, the Beauforts were the right-hand men of their royal kinsmen, amassing considerable authority on the national and continental stage. From uncertain beginnings, the Beauforts became earls, dukes and cardinals, and in time kings themselves, their blood seeping into every corner of the English artistocracy within a few generations of their birth. (Amin, 7).

So how exactly were the Beauforts able to accomplish all of this, going from bastards to kings? It starts with John of Gaunt marrying his mistress Katherine Swynford, making his four children with Katherine legitimate and they were given the name “Beaufort”, after his second marriage did not work out. After their half-brother King Henry IV( also known as Henry of Bolingbroke) became king, he allowed his half-siblings to obtain royal status, however, they could not be in line for the English throne.

John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford’s four children found a way to live successful lives without pursuing the English throne and they continued to support their Lancasterian family. John Beaufort became the 1st Earl of Somerset and his children became earls, counts, dukes and his daughter Joan became Queen of Scotland. John Beaufort’s granddaughter was Margaret Beaufort, the mother of the future King Henry VII. Henry Beaufort was able to become a very wealthy man and was promoted all the way to Cardinal of England, quite a feat for an English man at that time. Thomas Beaufort became the  1st Duke of Exeter and his sister Joan Beaufort Countess of Westmoreland was the matriarch of the powerful Neville family.

The Beauforts went through numereous highs and lows as they worked hard to protect England and the honor of their Lancastrian relations. Nathen Amin is able to navigate the complex world of the English court during both the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses to give us the intricate story of the Beaufort family. As someone who is acquianted with parts of the Beaufort family story, I found this book rather fascinating and very informative. This was my first time reading a book by Nathen Amin and I cannot wait to read more of his books. In a complex time, it would be easy to forget one person, but Amin spends the time to write about each Beaufort child and how they made a difference.

The only real issue I had with the book was the family tree. I wished that there were birth and death dates included because I found myself getting a tad bit confused about who was who, especially when some of the Beauforts shared the same name and a similar title.

Overall, I found this book extremely fascinating and informative. Amin’s writing style is easy to understand and he brings the Beauforts from the background and onto center stage. They may have started as illegitimate children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, but they rose to be dukes and kings. If you want to learn more about this remarkable family and their influence in both the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses, I absolutely recommend that you read “The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown” by Nathen Amin.

Biography: Elizabeth of York

220px-Elizabeth_of_York_from_Kings_and_Queens_of_England(Born February 11, 1466- Died February 11, 1503). Daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Married to King Henry VII. Mother of Arthur, Prince of Wales, Margaret, Queen of Scots, Henry VIII, King of England and Mary, Queen of France.
Elizabeth of York was the daughter, niece, sister, wife and mother of kings. It was through her marriage with Henry VII that helped create the Tudor Dynasty.

Elizabeth of York was the eldest child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. She was born at the Palace of Westminster on February 11, 1466. She was christened at Westminster Abbey; her godparents were Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford, Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, and Richard Neville 16th Earl of Warwick. When she was three years old in 1469, she was briefly betrothed to George Neville, the nephew of Richard Neville, but it did not go far since his uncle would die two years later. In 1475, Louis XI agreed to arrange a marriage between nine year old Elizabeth of York to his son, Charles, the Dauphin of France; in 1482, Louis decided not to go along with the promised wedding.

Elizabeth’s world drastically changed forever when her father, Edward IV, suddenly died on April 9, 1483. Her young brother Edward V was proclaimed king and her uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester was named Lord Protector. On April 29, as previously agreed, Richard and his cousin, the Duke of Buckingham, met Queen Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, at Northampton. The young king himself had been sent to Stony Stratford. Richard had Earl Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey and his associate, Thomas Vaughan, arrested. They were taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were executed on June 25 on the charge of treason against the Lord Protector after appearing before a tribuna. Richard took the young king under his protection, escorted him to London, and placed him in the Tower for his protection. After hearing about what had happened, Elizabeth Woodville took her children, including Elizabeth of York, her other daughters, her youngest son Richard Duke of York, and fled to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth Woodville tried to keep her son Richard Duke of York away from Richard Duke of Gloucester, but she eventually did give up her son. We do not know how Elizabeth of York reacted to these events.

In early June of 1483, the marriage between Elizabeth’s parents, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, was declared invalid because it is said that Edward IV had entered into a pre-contract marriage with Lady Eleanor Butler before he married Elizabeth Woodville. This meant that any children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville were considered illegitimate, including Edward V, Richard Duke of York and Elizabeth of York. Since the children of George Duke of Clarence were barred from succession because of their father’s treason and execution, the next in line to the throne was Richard Duke of Gloucester. Richard was crowned King Richard III on July 6, 1483 and Elizabeth’s brothers disappeared. Some say that they were murdered, others say they escaped, but at this point we do not know what happened to Edward V and Richard Duke of York.

Elizabeth’s mother Elizabeth Woodville was now known as Elizabeth Grey and she decided to side with the Duke of Buckingham and Margaret Beaufort to put Margaret’s son Henry Tudor on the throne. Henry Tudor was the closest male Lancastrian heir and in order to cement this new alliance, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret arranged that Henry would marry Elizabeth of York. Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard would fail and he would be killed on November 2, 1483. In December 1483, Henry Tudor made an oath in Rennes, France that he would marry Elizabeth of York when he became King of England. In January 1484, the act known as Titulus Regius was passed by Parliament, which confirmed under law that the marriage between Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville was invalid.

On March 1, 1484, Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters left sanctuary after Richard III promised not to harm them and to arrange marriages for all of Elizabeth’s daughters. There were rumors that after Anne Neville in March 1485, Richard III’s wife, died that he was seeking to marry Elizabeth of York, but there is no evidence to support this claim. Soon after Anne Neville’s death, Richard III sent Elizabeth away from court to the castle of Sheriff Hutton and opened negotiations with King John II of Portugal to marry his sister, Joan, Princess of Portugal, and to have Elizabeth marry their cousin, the future King Manuel I of Portugal.

These marriage arrangements did not come to fruition. Elizabeth of York stayed at Sheriff Hutton during August 1485, when Henry Tudor invaded England and on August 22, 1485 when Richard III fell at the Battle of Bosworth Field and Henry Tudor became King. Henry did keep his promise and married Elizabeth of York on January 18, 1486. The couple’s first child, Arthur, was born on September 20, 1486.

During 1487, a young man named Lambert Simnel, claimed that he was the earl of Warwick, Elizabeth’s cousin, so Henry VII had the real earl of Warwick taken from the Tower and paraded through London. It was at the last battle of the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Stoke Field on June 16, 1487 that Lambert Simnel was defeated. Henry decided to let the boy live and gave him a job at the castle. Elizabeth was crowned on November 25, 1487 and she would have seven children total, four survived into adulthood; Arthur, Henry, Margaret and Mary. Although Elizabeth had a strong claim to the throne, she did not seek to become queen regnant.
In the early 1490s, another threat to the peace emerged with the contention that Elizabeth’s younger brother, Richard, Duke of York, was still alive. Her aunt, Margaret of York, Dowager Duchess of Burgundy and James IV of Scotland, were sponsoring a young man, later revealed to be a youth named Perkin Warbeck. Warbeck received wide-spread support from amongst Yorkists, who did not like Henry VII. Ultimately, however, Warbeck could not command enough support at home or abroad, to mount a successful challenge and in 1497, he was captured.

Warbeck’s wife Lady Catherine Gordon was made one of the ladies-in-waiting for Queen Elizabeth of York. In June 1498, Warbeck was forced to make two public appearances at Westminster and Cheapside, where he admitted that he was not Richard Duke of York and that Margaret of Burgundy was to blame for the entire scheme. Henry VII was kind to Warbeck at the beginning, allowing him to live at court, but Warbeck tried to escape and it landed him in the Tower of London, close to Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, son of the late George, Duke of Clarence. Warbeck and Warwick plotted to escape the Tower, but the plan was uncovered and both men were charged with treason. Perkin Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn on November 23, 1499. We don’t know if Elizabeth of York ever met Warbeck.

Elizabeth was a very pious woman and was very dedicated to her children’s wellbeing. Elizabeth was very involved in the marriage negotiations for her two eldest children, Arthur and Margaret, Arthur to Katherine of Aragon, daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, and Margaret to James IV of Scotland. Elizabeth helped convince Katherine’s parents that she would be well taken care of and with Margaret’s marriage, Elizabeth was concerned that she was getting married at such a young age.

In November 1501, Katherine of Aragon arrived in England and Elizabeth was part of the celebrations of the marriage. The following year, tragedy hit hard as Arthur died on April 2, 1502. This was a tragic loss for Henry and Elizabeth because this meant that there was only one heir to save the Tudor Dynasty, the young Henry Tudor. While Henry was grieving, it is said that Elizabeth comforted him and told her husband that they were still young enough to have more children. Later, Elizabeth would break down and it was Henry who consoled his wife. Elizabeth would have one more child, a girl named Katherine, on February 2, 1503, but the baby would not live long. Elizabeth of York would die on her 37th birthday, on February 11, 1503.

Biography: Perkin Warbeck

Biography: Perkin Warbeck. (Born around 1474- Died November 23, 1499).Son of John dePerkin_Warbeck-250x300 Werbecque and Katherine de Faro. Married to Lady Catherine Gordon. Perkin Warbeck was one of the pretenders during the reign of Henry VII. He would proclaim himself Richard IV, also known as Richard Duke of York, in 1494.

Perkin Warbeck was born at Tournai in Picardy in 1474 to a poor burgess named John de Werbecque and his wife Katherine de Faro. Warbeck’s early life is difficult to determine because the statements that he used during his confession have been seen as unreliable. From what we can tell, he was taken to Antwerp where he worked several jobs as a servant. He was for a time with an Englishman John Strewe at Middleburg, and then accompanied Lady Brampton, the wife of an exiled partisan of the house of York, to Portugal. Warbeck was also employed by a Portuguese knight named Vacz de Cogna. In 1491, Warbeck was hired by a Breton silk merchant named Pierre Jean Meno and was brought to Cork, Ireland. It was here at Cork that Warbeck would dress up in silks to attract customers and the rumors began to spread that he was the illegitimate son of either George Duke of Clarence or Richard III.

We do not know who encouraged him to become a pretender of Richard Duke of York, but he eventually took on the role. He said that his “brother” Edward V was killed in the Tower and that he, as Richard Duke of York, was spared. He was supposedly smuggled to Europe by Yorkist sympathizers and he was sworn to secrecy. To a lot of people, Warbeck’s story was believable. One of his biggest supporters was Edward IV’s sister Margaret of Burgundy, who in 1492, recognized him as her nephew and the rightful heir to the throne. We are not sure why Margaret accepted Warbeck as her nephew, but she did and helped educate him.

Warbeck travelled through Europe gaining support and recognition, most importantly from Maximilian I the Holy Roman Emperor and Charles VII of France. Maximilian was the one who encouraged Warbeck to proclaim himself Richard IV in October 1494 and to invade England. On July 3, 1495, Warbeck raised his forces and tried to land in England. Henry VII was one step ahead of Warbeck and stopped the invasion, arresting English nobles who supported Warbeck, and forced Warbeck to flee to Ireland, the Netherlands and eventually Scotland. It was there that James IV of Scotland became one of Warbeck’s closest allies since he wanted an alliance between France and Scotland. In order to cement this newfound alliance, James IV allowed Warbeck to marry his cousin Lady Catherine Gordon, the daughter of the earl of Huntly in January 1496.

In September 1496, James IV and Warbeck invaded England, but it failed miserably; it was more like a border skirmish than an invasion. After this failed invasion, Warbeck lost the support of Emperor Maximilian and James IV. Warbeck landed in Cornwall, where the Cornish had rebelled against Henry VII over high taxes. In September 1497, Warbeck raised a local force and besieged Exeter and Taunton before he panicked about the news about Henry VII’s army and fled. Warbeck was finally captured at Beaulieu in Hampshire.

Warbeck’s wife Lady Catherine Gordon was made one of the ladies-in-waiting for Queen Elizabeth of York. In June 1498, Warbeck was forced to make two public appearances at Westminster and Cheapside, where he admitted that he was not Richard Duke of York and that Margaret of Burgundy was to blame for the entire scheme. Henry VII was kind to Warbeck at the beginning, allowing him to live at court, but Warbeck tried to escape and it landed him in the Tower of London, close to Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, son of the late George, Duke of Clarence. Warbeck and Warwick plotted to escape the Tower, but the plan was uncovered and both men were charged with treason. Perkin Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn on November 23, 1499.

Biography: The Princes in the Tower (Edward V and Richard Duke of York)

PrincesEdward V (Born November 2, 1470- Date of Death Unknown). Richard Duke of York (Born August 17, 1473- Date of Death Unknown). Sons of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Richard was married to Anne Mowbray. Edward V and Richard Duke of York are known as “The Princes in the Tower”. They were placed in the Tower of London after their father’s death and were never seen again. Their disappearances and whether or not they were murdered has become one of the greatest mysteries in history.

Edward and Richard were both the sons of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Edward IV had married Elizabeth Woodville in secret, causing distrust between Edward and his biggest ally Richard Neville Earl of Warwick. With the rise of the Woodvilles, Warwick feared that they would overthrow his title of the second most powerful man in England.

Warwick decided to side with Edward’s power hungry younger brother George Duke of Clarence, and Louis XI of France, who promised Warwick land in France if he overthrew Edward. Warwick’s plan was to depose Edward and place George on the throne. Warwick had Edward imprisoned in the Tower, but when his reputation began to suffer, he released Edward in October 1469. Warwick and George both decided to reconciled with Edward but Edward never truly trusted either of them ever again.

Warwick knew that if he was going to restore his power, he had to discuss matters with Louis XI and Margaret of Anjou, which meant that he had to defect to the Lancastrian cause, which he did. In September 1470, Warwick and his rebellion made its way to England; Edward was unprepared and was forced to leave England on October 2 and seek aid from his brother in law the duke of Burgundy. His wife Elizabeth Woodville and their children were forced to seek sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. It was there on November 2, 1470 that the future Edward V was born.

Edward returned to England on March 11, 1471. His army defeated Warwick’s army at the Battle of Barnet, where Warwick and John Neville were killed. On May 4, 1471, Edward faced off against the Lancastrian army at the Battle of Tewkesbury, where the Lancastrians were finally defeated and Edward of Westminster was killed. Edward V was created Prince of Wales in June 1471. In 1473, Edward V was moved to Ludlow Castle and was created president of the Council of Wales and the Marches. Edward was in the care of the queen’s brother Anthony, Earl of Rivers, who was a renowned scholar.

Edward’s brother Richard was born on August 17, 1473. In May 1474, he was made Duke of York and the following year, Richard was made a Knight of the Garter. From this point on, the second son of the king was created Duke of York. On June 12, 1476, Richard was created Earl of Nottingham. It was on January 15, 1478 that Richard was married to Anne Mowbray, 8th Countess of Norfolk. The groom was around 4 years old and the bride was 5 years old. On February 7, 1477, Richard was created Duke of Norfolk and Earl Warenne. Richard’s brother Edward was arranged to be married to Anne of Brittany in 1480 to conclude an alliance between England and Brittany, but the marriage never happened. In November 1471, Anne Mowbray died and instead of her Mowbray estates passing onto the next heirs, William, Viscount Berkeley and to John, Lord Howard, Parliament ruled in January 1483 that the estates would pass onto Richard Duke of York.

On April 9, 1483, Edward IV died, leaving his eldest son Edward V to be king at the age of 12. Edward did not hear about his father’s death until April 14, 1483 since he was at Ludlow Castle at the time. Edward IV’s brother Richard Duke of Gloucester was named Lord Protector. On April 29, as previously agreed, Richard and his cousin, the Duke of Buckingham, met Queen Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, at Northampton. At the queen’s request, Earl Rivers was escorting the young king to London with an armed escort of 2000 men, while Richard and Buckingham’s joint escort was 600 men. The young king himself had been sent to Stony Stratford. Richard had Earl Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey and his associate, Thomas Vaughan, arrested. They were taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were executed on June 25 on the charge of treason against the Lord Protector after appearing before a tribunal led by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. Richard took the young king under his protection, escorted him to London, and placed him in the Tower for his protection. Elizabeth Woodville took her daughters and Richard Duke of York and fled to sanctuary at Westminster Abbey yet again.

The coronation for Edward V was scheduled for June 1483, but it was postponed. On June 16, it is said that Richard Duke of York joined his brother in the Tower. It was around this time that Richard Duke of Gloucester announced that he believed that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville had been illegal since Edward IV had a pre-contract marriage arrangement with Lady Eleanor Butler. This meant that his children with Elizabeth Woodville were considered illegitimate, including the young king Edward V and his brother Richard. This meant that the next in line to the throne, Richard Duke of Gloucester, was the rightful king. On June 25, 1483, King Edward V was deposed and Richard Duke of Gloucester became Richard III. We do not know if it is true if Edward IV did indeed enter into a pre-contract marriage with Lady Eleanor Butler.

Edward V and Richard Duke of York were last seen in the Tower in the summer of 1483. We do not know what happened to them. There are theories that they were murdered, which includes a list of suspects including their uncle Richard III as the main suspect. There are also theories that the boys somehow managed to escape the Tower and came back as pretenders like Lambert Simnel or Perkin Warbeck. The simple fact is right now, we do not know what happened to Edward V and Richard Duke of York, “the Princes in the Tower”.

Biography: King Richard III

mw05304(Born October 2, 1452- Died August 22, 1485). Son of Richard 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville. Married to Anne Neville. Father of Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales.
Richard III is one of the most controversial kings in English history. His death at the Battle of Bosworth Field led to the beginning of the Tudor Dynasty.

Richard III was born to Richard 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville on October 2, 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire. Many believed that it was a difficult birth. What we do know from historical records is that he might have been breeched born, which means that he was born upside down, which might have led to his physical deformities. From what we do know from examining his skeleton is that he had scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine.

Richard’s father was one of the most important men in all of England. He was a loyal follower to King Henry VI and when Henry VI had his bouts of mental illness, it was Richard Duke of York who would become the Lord Protector. York’s enemy was Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset, who was an ally of Margaret of Anjou; York had Somerset arrested during his protectorate but when the king recovered, Somerset was released and all of York’s reforms were reversed. York decided to face off against Somerset at the First Battle of St. Albans in 1455, where Somerset was killed. This was the first major battle in The Wars of the Roses. Margaret of Anjou never trusted York, especially when the king decided to name York and his sons the next heir to the throne, dismissing his son Edward of Westminster. Margaret of Anjou formed the Lancastrian army to face off against York and his ally Richard Neville Earl of Warwick.

It would be on December 30, 1460 when Richard’s life would radically change. This was the day when his father and eldest brother Edmund Earl of Rutland both died at the Battle of Wakefield. As the next Duke of York, Richard’s brother Edward was left the task of avenging their father’s death, with the help of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Edward did so at the Battle of Towton on March 29, 1461. This battle would ultimately lead to Edward being crowned king on June 28, 1461. Around the same time, Richard was declared Duke of Gloucester and made a Knight of the Garter and Knight of the Bath.

With this new title and his brother being King of England, Richard’s home life changed greatly. He moved to the castle of Middleham, home of Richard Neville Earl of Warwick, where he continued his education for at least four years. This was where he became friends with Francis Lovell and Robert Percy, two of his closest allied; he would also meet his future wife, Anne Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, here. Richard would leave Warwick’s household in 1468.
Warwick and Richard’s brother Edward IV were close since Warwick helped Edward become king. That was until Warwick found out that Edward had married Elizabeth Woodville instead of marrying the French princess that Warwick had in mind in order to create an English- French alliance. This was seen as an act of betrayal by not only Warwick, but the other lords of the court since it meant that Elizabeth’s family members would have a chance to marry well, thus allowing her family to move up in society. Around this time, Warwick was trying to arrange marriages for his daughters Anne and Isabel to George Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester, the brothers of the king. Edward did not approve of this idea at all.

Warwick decided to marry his daughter Isabel to George Duke of Clarence in July 1469, and Warwick tried to put George on the throne instead of Edward, which angered Edward IV and Parliament. Warwick took his family and his son-in-law George to France where Warwick reconciled with Margaret of Anjou. In order to cement their new alliance in order to get Henry VI back on the throne, Warwick had Anne marry Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, on December 13, 1470, making Anne Neville Princess of Wales. Their marriage would not last long.

During this time, Richard stayed loyal to his brother Edward and when Warwick came back in October 1470, Richard and Edward fled to Burgundy. They came back in March 1471. On April 14, 1471 at the Battle of Barnet, Warwick was killed. A few weeks later, on May 4, 1471 at the battle of Tewkesbury, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, was killed and Henry VI was placed in the Tower. On May 21, 1471, King Henry VI was murdered. It is unknown who killed him, but many suspect that it was under the orders of King Edward IV. Some believe that Richard may have had a hand in this murder, but there is no evidence to either support or deny this claim.

Anne Neville was now a very powerful widow and there were again talks about her marrying Richard Duke of Gloucester. This made George Duke of Clarence nervous since he didn’t want to share the Warwick inheritance with his brother. George treated Anne like she was his ward and opposed her getting married. The story goes that George made Anne dress as a maid and hid her in a London shop, but Richard found her and escorted her to sanctuary at the Church of St Martin’s le Grand. George and Richard would feud about the lands that belonged to Anne and Isabel’s mother Anne Beauchamp. Edward resolved the matter by splitting the inheritance between the two sisters. This paved the way for Anne and Richard to be married, probably in the spring of 1472.

George would cause more trouble for Edward. Isabel died on December 22, 1476. Though it is believed that Isabel died of either consumption or childbed fever , George was convinced she had been poisoned by one of her ladies-in-waiting, Ankarette Twynyho, whom, as a consequence, he had judicially murdered in April 1477 right after her trial. The same year, George was eligible for Mary Duchess of Burgundy’s hand, but when Edward refused the marriage suit, George left court.

Edward was convinced that George was aiming at his throne after three of George’s men were tried for treason and were executed. George was thrown into prison, and in January 1478 the king unfolded the charges against his brother to the parliament. He had slandered the king; had received oaths of allegiance to himself and his heirs and had prepared for a new rebellion. Both Houses of Parliament passed the bill of attainder, and the sentence of death was announced. It is said that Edward gave his brother a choice on how he would die and George said that he would like to be drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. What we do know is that George Duke of Clarence was executed in private in February 1478.

After George’s execution, Richard left court to take care of things in northern England. He conducted a few campaigns against James III of Scotland in 1482, which resulted in England regaining possession of Berwick, as well as the English advancing into Edinburgh. Richard was seen by his peers as a wise and strong general who ruled northern England and was granted palatine powers in the west in March 1483. Two months later, Richard’s world would change forever.

On April 9, 1483 Edward IV died and his son Edward V became king, Richard was named Lord Protector. On April 29, as previously agreed, Richard and his cousin, the Duke of Buckingham, met Queen Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, at Northampton. At the queen’s request, Earl Rivers was escorting the young king to London with an armed escort of 2000 men, while Richard and Buckingham’s joint escort was 600 men. The young king himself had been sent to Stony Stratford. Richard had Earl Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey and his associate, Thomas Vaughan, arrested. They were taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were executed on June 25 on the charge of treason against the Lord Protector after appearing before a tribunal led by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. Richard took the young king under his protection, escorted him to London, and placed him in the Tower for his protection. After hearing about what had happened, the dowager queen Elizabeth Woodville took her children, including her daughters and her youngest son Richard Duke of York, and fled to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.

At a council meeting on June 13 at the Tower of London, Richard accused William Hastings and others of having conspired against him with the Woodvilles. Hastings, once a loyal supporter of Richard and a staunch opponent of the Woodvilles, was executed without trial. On June 16, the dowager queen agreed to hand over the Duke of York to the Archbishop of Canterbury so that he might attend his brother Edward’s coronation. Richard was said to have been informed with information that Edward V was illegitimate because Edward IV had entered into a previous marriage contract. On June 22nd, the day which was supposed to be Edward V’s coronation, Dr. Ralph Shaa gave a sermon at Old St. Paul’s Cathedral declaring that Edward IV’s children, the young king, his brother and sisters, were illegitimate. On June 25, Parliament agreed that Edward V was illegitimate and the following day, June 26, Richard was proclaimed king. His joint coronation with his wife Anne Neville would occur on July 6, 1483, and his title was confirmed in an act of Parliament called the Titulus Regius, which was passed in January 1484.

We do not know what happened to the Princes in the Tower, Edward V and Richard Duke of York. They disappeared from sight after the summer of 1483, which has led many to speculate that Richard III had them murdered. At this point we cannot confirm or deny this theory. We don’t even know if they were murdered at all. It still remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in history.

Although secure on the throne, Richard had to deal with some rebellions. The main rebellion came from his once loyal supporter Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham. Buckingham decided to support the Woodvilles, 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.

Richard was actual a very good ruler. He treated his subjects fairly and was highly regarded as a monarch by the English and his European counterparts. He was a pious man and was a staunch supporter of the church. In April 1484, Richard’s only legitimate son, Edward of Middleham, died, leaving Richard and Anne devastated. On March 16, 1485, Anne Neville died of possibly tuberculosis. There were rumors that Richard was trying to marry his niece Elizabeth of York and he had poisoned Anne to do so, but there is no evidence to prove these rumors.

Henry Tudor was able to make it to England in August 1485. Richard faced off against Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field, on August 22, 1485. Richard’s army outnumbered Henry’s by quite a bit. Richard divided his army, which outnumbered Henry’s, into three groups. One was assigned to the Duke of Norfolk and another to the Earl of Northumberland. Henry kept most of his force together and placed it under the command of the experienced Earl of Oxford. Richard’s vanguard, commanded by Norfolk, attacked but struggled against Oxford’s men, and some of Norfolk’s troops fled the field. Northumberland took no action when signaled to assist his king, so Richard gambled everything on a charge across the battlefield to kill Henry and end the fight. Seeing the King’s knights separated from his army, the Stanleys intervened; Sir William Stanley led his men to Henry’s aid, surrounding and killing Richard. Richard’s body was stripped naked and it was carried on a pack horse to the Greyfriars Church in Leicester. His remains were found in 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester and he was reburied at Leicester Cathedral on March 26, 2015.

Biography: Cecily Neville, Duchess of York

cecily_neville_originalAlso known as “the Rose of Raby” and “Proud Cis”. (Born May 3, 1415-Died May 31, 1495). Daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and Joan Beaufort. Married to Richard Plantagenet 3rd Duke of York. Mother of Anne, Duchess of Exeter, Edward IV, King of England, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk, Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, George, 1st Duke of Clarence and Richard III, King of England.
Cecily Neville was the mother of two kings of England, Edward IV and Richard III. She was known for her piety and her pride.

Cecily Neville was the daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and Joan Beaufort. Her paternal grandparents were John Neville, 3rd Baron Neville de Raby, and Maud Percy, daughter of Henry de Percy, 2nd Baron Percy. Her maternal grandparents were John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his third wife Katherine Swynford, thus making her a great granddaughter of King Edward III on her mother’s side of the family. She was born on May 3, 1415 at Raby Castle in Durham thus gaining the nickname “the Rose of Raby”. Her father Ralph Neville was granted the wardship of a young Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and in 1424, she was betrothed to Richard. When Ralph Neville died in 1425, his widow Joan Beaufort was able to maintain the wardship of Richard Plantagenet. In October 1429, Richard and Cecily were married; their first child Anne was not born until August 1439.

Richard was made king’s lieutenant and governor general of France in 1441; Cecily and Anne moved to Rouen to be with him. They had a son Henry but he would die soon after he was born. On April 28, 1442, their son the future Edward IV was born in Rouen. He was baptized shortly afterward, which caused both his cousin Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and his own brother George Duke of Clarence to question if he was actually the son of Richard Plantagenet. These claims were dismissed as attempts to remove Edward from the throne. Richard Plantagenet always acknowledged Edward as his own son. In total, Cecily and Richard would have 13 children including Edward IV, George Duke of Clarence and Richard III.

Richard had an enemy at court and that was Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, a cousin of Cecily Neville. Richard did not like how close Somerset was to the king and to Margaret of Anjou. In 1454, Henry VI had a mental breakdown and it was Richard, not Somerset, who was made Lord Protector and Richard threw Somerset in prison. Richard was removed from the post in 1455, all of his reforms were changed and Somerset was released from prison. This infuriated Richard and so he decided to march against Somerset at the First Battle of St. Albans where Somerset was killed. During this time, Cecily and her children were living in Ludlow Castle, even when Richard fled to Ireland and the European continent. In November 1459, Cecily travelled to London to plead for her husband’s cause to Parliament. Richard lost all of his titles but Cecily was able to get a grant of 600 pounds for her efforts in order to provide for her children.

1460 was a year of change for the York family. When the Yorkist army won at the Battle of Northampton in July 1460, Cecily moved her family to London where they stayed with the lawyer John Paston. Richard and his heirs were declared Henry VI’s successors in the Act of Accord, which made Cecily a queen-in-waiting. This pushed Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, out of the line of succession, which angered his mother Margaret of Anjou. Margaret led the Lancastrian army against the Yorkist army at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460, where Richard Duke of York and his son Edmund Earl of Rutland were killed. Cecily sent her young sons George and Richard to the court of Philip II duke of Burgundy for their protection, making Philip an ally of the Yorkist cause.

Cecily’s son Edward took up the Yorkist cause with the help of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Edward was able to defeat the Lancastrians and become king, making Cecily mother of the king. In 1461, Cecily included the royal arms of England on her own coat of arms, which hinted that her husband was the rightful king of England. When Edward married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464, he built a new queen’s quarter for Elizabeth and let Cecily stay in the old queen’s quarters. When Warwick and Cecily’s son George rebelled in 1469 against Edward, Cecily worked hard to get both sides to reconcile, which briefly happened. Warwick and George went to France and joined the Lancastrian cause. In 1470, the Lancastrian cause under Warwick overthrew Edward and placed Henry VI back on the throne. It only lasted for six months and on April 14, 1471, Edward came back to the throne and Warwick was killed.

Edward never really trusted George again and on February 18, 1478, George was executed for treason at the Tower of London. This must have been a difficult moment for Cecily as one son had another executed for treason. Edward IV would die suddenly on April 9, 1483, leaving his young son Edward V as the next king of England. He was 13 and his younger brother Richard was 10 years old. Richard, Cecily’s youngest son and the boys’ uncle, became their Lord Protector. He had the boys placed in the Tower and they were never seen again. There was an enquiry into Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and they found that it was invalid and an Act of Parliament called the Titulus Regius declared that the Princes in the Tower were illegitimate and that paved the way for Richard to become Richard III on July 6, 1483. Cecily got along rather well with Richard’s wife Anne Neville and would often discuss religious matters with her, until Anne died.

On August 22, 1485, Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field and Henry Tudor became Henry Tudor. Cecily’s husband and all four of her sons were dead by 1485, Edward IV was the only one by natural causes. On January 18, 1486, Cecily’s granddaughter Elizabeth of York married Henry VII and help bring forth the Tudor Dynasty. At this time, Cecily devoted her life to religious duties and she gain a reputation for her piety. Cecily Neville never married again and on May 31,1495, she died. She was buried in the tomb with her husband Richard and their son Edmund at the Church of St Mary and All Saints, Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire.