Authors: David Starkey
The service ended and a grand procession was formed. This was joined by the ladies of the court, headed by the queen, also crowned, and Lady Margaret Beaufort, in her coronet, both of whom had heard the service in the queen’s closet or private pew.
At this climax of the ceremonies, Henry VII took direct charge. Standing in the dean’s stall of St Stephen’s Chapel, he settled two disputed cases of precedence on the spot and ‘ordered’ the procession himself. We can judge the result thanks to the reports of two very different observers. The
first was that of Sir John Paston’s London agent, the priest Thomas Lyng, who must have joined the gaping throng in Westminster Hall. ‘The king and queen went crowned on Hallowmas Day last,’ he wrote, ‘and my lord of Shrewsbury bare My Lord Harry, duke of York, in his arms; and ten bishops, with mitres on their heads, going before the king that day round about Westminster Hall, with many other great estates.’
Lyng’s may be the voice of everyman. But the picture he conjures up, of the red-robed figures in their crowns, mitres and coronets, processing round the half-lit spaces of Westminster Hall, is an unforgettable one. The professional’s judgment was more discriminating. The procession, in the view of the herald who drew up the account of the ceremonies, was ‘the best ordered and most praised of all the processions that I have ever heard of in England’.
After the procession, the king changed out of his robes and dined. At the end of the second course, the heralds cried ‘largesse’ for the king and then for Henry in his new style. ‘Largesse,’ the cry went up in old French, ‘largesse of the most high, mighty and excellent prince, second son of the king our sovereign lord, duke of York, lieutenant-general of Ireland, earl marshal, marshal of England, lord warden of the Cinque Ports, largesse.’
The careful preparations, the king’s own intervention and his son’s precocious ease and confidence in public had all had their effect. The result was that there was no doubt who had
won the battle of ceremony: Henry, duke of York in London had faced down with ease the cardboard pretender in Malines.
But was ceremony enough? Henry’s father was far too wise to rely on it alone. Instead, on 7 November and again on the eleventh, the king took advantage of the presence of so many dignitaries for his son’s creation to hold two unusually large meetings of the council. The king himself presided and one of those present was Sir William Stanley, the lord chamberlain and Warbeck’s latest and most important recruit. Each, king and councillor, was acting a charade. But, being public men, they probably played it well.
The minutes (which rarely tell the whole story) note the setting up of a sub-committee to prepare draft legislation for the next parliament; while suitors complained that, because ‘there hath been so great council for the king’s matters’, Cardinal Morton, who was also the lord chancellor, had only sat in Star Chamber for one day out of seven.
Was the consideration of future legislation really so pressing? Or, whatever the formal record may say, were Warbeck and his English adherents on the agenda as well?
Despite these backstage machinations – or perhaps indeed as a deliberate screen for them – the round of celebrations continued regardless, though a little later than planned. The joust had originally been announced as taking place on 4, 9 and 12 November. But the fourth turned out to be the ‘obit’
or anniversary of the death of ‘the full noble memor the king’s father’, Edmund Tudor, earl of Richmond, out of respect for whom the whole series was put back five days, to the ninth, eleventh and thirteenth.
There is no reason to suppose that the oversight was other than genuine. But it did leave useful time to prepare for the extraordinary meetings of the council.
Henry, no doubt, was frustrated at the delay. But on the ninth he took his place in the royal box alongside his parents as the first of the ‘great estates of the realm’. It was his first joust, and he was not to be disappointed. The second day, on the eleventh, was especially exciting. The challengers pranced on to the field under new-fangled pavilions made of sumptuous fabrics and embroidered with different mottoes: ‘For to accomplish’ or ‘Our promise made’. And they accomplished their promises indeed in the exuberant violence of the sport. Best was the tourney or mounted sword-fight between Sir Robert Curzon and Thomas Brandon. First their swords became locked together in Curzon’s gauntlet, and Curzon nearly dragged Brandon out of the saddle in his struggle to extricate it. Brandon saved the day by pulling off Curzon’s gauntlet, sword and all. Re-armed at the king’s command, they then both broke their swords on each other’s armour, before finishing the bout with new weapons.
And all this was done in
honour. The challengers wore
new ‘colours of the duke of York, that is to say, blue and tawney’. And, when the prizes were awarded after supper,
special thanks were given to the contestants in
name: ‘the noble and mighty prince the second son of the king our sovereign lord, the duke of York, in the honour of whose creation this noble joust and tourney hath been holden’.
Henry could hardly wait to take part as a combatant himself.
Only one other member of the royal family was permitted to share in his glory: his sister Margaret, with whom he had been brought up since birth. She presented the prizes to the contestants at the end of the first two days of the joust. And on the final day of the tournament she herself was the focus of attention. The tournament was a kind of ladies’ day: held, as the challenge stated, to give pleasure to the ladies of the court and in particular to ‘their redoubted lady and fairest young princess, the eldest daughter to our sovereign lord the King’. The day began with a pageant of four ladies leading four knights, and it ended with proclamation of the prizes. Garter, the other kings of arms, heralds and pursuivants, ‘standing on high on a form’, offered thanks in the name of ‘the right high and excellent princess the Lady Margaret’, who again presented the winners with their prizes of a diamond and a ruby ring.
She was taking her place as the first lady of the court, just as her younger brother was to be its first gentleman.
* * *
The Christmas celebrations that year took place at Greenwich. Henry, rejoicing in his new dignity, may have made the short journey from Eltham to join his parents for the festivities. But he would not have stayed long, as the celebrations were kept to the bare minimum of twelve days, for the king had work to do.
Over the course of the holidays, Henry VII had received news that Sir Robert Clifford, one of Warbeck’s principal adherents in Malines, had been turned and was being escorted back to England with proof positive of the treasonable communications between the pretender and his adherents in England. On 7 January 1495, the day after Twelfth Day, the king returned to London and took up residence in the Tower, ‘in order’, Polydore Vergil claims plausibly, ‘that he might at once imprison in that safe place any members of the plot whom [Clifford] might name’. Clifford was brought to the king on 9 January and interrogated. Immediately afterwards, Sir William Stanley, who was discharging his duties as chamberlain at court, ‘suddenly was arrested and put under sure keeping’.
The trap had snapped shut smoothly. Stanley, who had a powerful armed following and was well able to resist arrest, had entered the Tower voluntarily, in all his glory as lord chamberlain. He would leave it only as a condemned man. His trial took place on 6–7 February and he was executed nine days later. Lord Steward Fitzwalter’s trial followed at the end of the month. His sentence was commuted to life
imprisonment, but within two years he too was executed, on pretext of having tried to escape.
What, the London chronicler wondered, had Stanley, with his wealth, his property and his power, been thinking of when he threw it all away ‘for a knave [Warbeck] that after was hanged’.
. A. F. Pollard, ed.,
The Reign of Henry VII from Contemporary
, 3 vols (1913) I, 185.
CPR Henry VII
I (1485–94), 214, 423; II (1494–1509), 26; GEC I, 249; I. Arthurson,
The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy
(Stroud, 1994), 197;
. J. Gairdner,
History of Richard III
LP Hen. VII
. GEC III, 257–61.
. GEC XII ii, 911; Schofield,
IV II, 94.
. Condon, ‘Itinerary’.
. TNA: E 404/81/4 (2 October 1494).
. J. Gairdner, ed.,
The Paston Letters
, 6 vols (1904) VI, 151–2.
LP Hen. VII
II, 389; Condon, ‘Itinerary’.
. J. Anstis, ed.,
The Register of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
, 2 vols (1724) I, 236–7.
Gairdner, Paston Letters
. Ibid., 394.
. C. G. Bayne and W. H. Dunham, eds,
Select Cases in the Council
of Henry VII
, Selden Society 75 (1958), 28–9; Gairdner,
. LP Hen. VII I, 389, 394–6.
. Ibid., 396–8.
. Ibid., 389, 400–2.
, 256; Vergil B, 73–5.
HE BLOODLETTINGS IN
in early 1495 did nothing to dampen the ardour of Warbeck’s support in the Netherlands. The result was that for the next few years there were two rival dukes of York: Henry at Eltham, and Warbeck almost anywhere as his quest for his kingdom began in earnest. One thing the two had in common was their need for money: Henry to maintain his state, Warbeck to recover it.
At Henry’s creation as duke of York, his father had announced his intention to endow his second son ‘with the gift of a thousand pound by year’. He did so, however, at no direct cost to himself. The king’s uncle, Jasper Tudor, had received substantial land grants, both from his half-brother Henry VI, when he created him earl of Pembroke, and from Henry VII himself, when he promoted him to the duchy of Bedford. But Jasper
was childless, while his wife was well provided for in her own right as dowager duchess of Buckingham.
This left the way clear for an act of parliament of 1495 which, in effect, made Henry his great-uncle Bedford’s heir: providing that, after his death, Bedford’s lands were to pass to Henry, duke of York ‘for the maintenance, supportation, relief and sustaining’ of his honours and offices. Despite his nonage, the act gave Henry power to grant leases and offices. But the grants required the agreement and signature of the king, the duke’s chancellor and three of his other councillors. In practice, the king seems to have kept the management of the duke’s estates very much in his own hands. Henry VII also protected the longer-term interests of the crown by stipulating that, if Henry became heir apparent by the death of his brother Arthur, ‘which God forbid’, Bedford’s lands were to revert directly to the crown.
As Bedford died on 21 December 1495, the day that parliament was dissolved, the act took immediate effect. In addition, Henry VII intended to add to his second son’s lands by purchase. Henry, Lord Grey of Codnor, who died in 1496, had no children. Even before his death it looks as though the king was angling to obtain his lands. Five years later, in 1501, Henry VII agreed to pay Lord Grey’s executors
1,000 for the castle of Codnor and other lands for the use of his second son, Henry. Codnor, in Derbyshire, is remote, and forty years later the castle was described as ‘all ruinous’. But at the time it looks as though it was intended to become an outpost of Henry’s dukedom.
* * *
Estates on this scale were sufficient to maintain a substantial establishment. The figures in Kate Mertz’s
The English Noble
suggest that a lord with an income of about £1,000 a year would spend about £600 on his household. This tallies well with the fact that Henry VII assigned 1,000 marks (
) ‘for the expenses of the household of our right dear and right well beloved son the duke of York’. The sum actually spent was usually a few pounds higher, and the difference was made up in arrears by annual payments from the exchequer and chamber. Expenditure at this level would support, again according to Mertz, a household of about fifty.
We know the names of only a few. As usual, the financial staff are best documented. The receiver of Henry’s lands was John Heron, who was also treasurer of the chamber. In his capacity as Henry’s receiver, he was paid a fee of
10 from about 1497, though he did not obtain a patent formally granting him the office and fee until 1503. William Fisher was treasurer of Henry’s household in 1496, but he had been replaced by John Reading within a year. Reading received a commission to purvey, that is, obtain at preferential prices, victuals for the duke’s household in 1498. Other casual references give the names of one of Henry’s chaplains and of a couple of servants without specified duties. Finally there is mention of ‘the duke of York’s schoolmaster’, to whom the king gave a reward of
2 in 1502.
How much difference in practice all this made to Henry’s position is unclear. The guess must be that it altered rather
little. Henry continued to live with his sisters at Eltham, to share his upbringing with them and to be attended by their joint staff. What changed instead were words. The joint staff became the ‘attendant [s] in our nursery upon our right dear and right entirely well-beloved son the duke of York and the lady Margaret and Mary his sisters’. And Henry’s own title and mode of address changed too, of course.
But equally, words and titles matter – especially if you are royal.
Finally, there is something more indefinable. Henry’s creation and endowment as duke of York marked his entry into his inheritance as a prince of the blood. It also made the rivalry with Warbeck evident and inescapable. The ‘dukedom [of York],’ one of Henry’s future servants, Sir William Thomas, asserted flatly, ‘belongs to the king of England’s second son.’
Only force could determine which of the rival dukes would possess it.
Warbeck and his handlers understood this too. But how to raise the funds necessary to mount a serious invasion of England? Warbeck had no resources, and the goodwill of Margaret of York and Maximilian would only stretch so far. Instead, at the turn of the year 1494–95, it was decided, in effect, to mortgage England to pay for its future conquest.
Two sets of deeds were executed. In the first, between the pretender and his ‘aunt’ Margaret of York, Warbeck pledged himself not only to compensate her for her outlay on the
expeditions against Henry VII in 1486 and ’87, but also to settle all her claims on England going back to the third of her dowry which was still unpaid at the time of Charles the Bold’s death in 1477. The second agreement, between Warbeck and Maximilian, was even more extravagant. In this the pretender promised, in return for Burgundian hospitality and assistance, to nominate Maximilian and his son Philip as his heirs to the dominions of the English crown should he die before he had issue of his own.
With England as security, fundraising now proceeded apace. Maximilian made over, covertly as well as openly, some of his Netherlandish revenues. Commercial money-lenders were also encouraged to take a punt on Warbeck’s success. The result was that by June 1495 a substantial amphibious force had been raised, consisting of fifteen ships and a mixed force made up of English exiles, mercenaries and international soldiers of fortune. Not, in short, very different from the expedition which Henry, earl of Richmond, had captained in 1485 when he set out to recover his right in England.
Back in England, however, early 1495 was not all trials and executions. By late January, Henry VII had discovered all he needed to know about Warbeck’s English adherents, and the court moved from the Tower to Henry’s birthplace of Greenwich.
There, on 4 February 1495, the wedding of the year took place in the presence of the king and queen. The bride was
the queen’s sister, Anne Plantagenet, and the groom Lord Thomas Howard, son and heir of the earl of Surrey. Elizabeth of York had brokered the marriage, with the ‘assent’ of the king, while its financial terms were ratified by an act and an amending act of parliament, which were passed ‘at the special desire’ of the queen, in view of her ‘very will and mind’ that the money be paid in full.
Perhaps, bearing in mind his mother’s enthusiasm, Henry, nearby at Eltham, was brought over to join in the family celebration. The marriage is forgotten now. But at the time it seemed the most significant in England since the wedding of Henry’s own parents nine years earlier. For, like that wedding, it involved a union of political opposites.
The groom’s father, Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, was the most important survivor of Richard III’s regime. He had fought at Bosworth alongside his father, John Howard, duke of Norfolk. Norfolk had been killed by Henry Tudor’s forces and Thomas captured. Subsequently, both were attainted, that is, declared legally dead, by Henry VII, and their estates and titles confiscated. But Thomas was not executed; instead, he was given the opportunity to redeem himself. And he took it. It was a carefully calculated policy of
: Thomas showed loyalty and usefulness, Henry VII gave him honour and favour. Step by step his estates were regranted and in 1489 his earldom itself was restored.
The year 1495 marked another major stage in Thomas’s rehabilitation: he recovered a further large tranche of his
lands, while his reconciliation with the king was confirmed by his son’s marriage to the king’s sister-in-law.
Thomas Howard, unlike Sir William Stanley, who went on trial for his life two days after the wedding, had decided that Henry Tudor was a better bet than Perkin Warbeck.
But the marriage was, still more, a reconciliation with the queen. For the inheritance of the Mowbrays, dukes of Norfolk and earls of Surrey, had been disputed between the Howards and the Plantagenets. And, once again, the brief life of Richard of Shrewsbury, Elizabeth of York’s younger brother and our Henry’s
, was at the heart of the story.
Richard of Shrewsbury had been married to Anne Mowbray, daughter of the last Mowbray duke of Norfolk, in 1478, and given the dukedom of Norfolk (alongside his own duchy of York) in right of his wife. Anne died three years later, aged only eight and of course childless. But Richard of Shrewsbury kept the dukedom of Norfolk and the lands.
This was to challenge head-on the claims of John Howard. He descended in the female line from the Mowbrays; he had also been an ardent Yorkist. But Edward IV was more interested in protecting the rights of his son, Richard of Shrewsbury, than in recognizing faithful service. Howard’s opportunity came with Richard III’s usurpation. Howard supported him at every step, and was rewarded with the dukedom of Norfolk and its vast estates. This meant that the princes in the Tower posed as much a threat to the Howards as to Richard III. Some even suspect that Norfolk was their
murderer. This seems unlikely. But certainly there was bad blood between the two families.
The marriage of Anne Plantagenet (Richard of Shrewsbury’s sister) to Lord Thomas Howard (John Howard’s grandson) was a vital step towards neutralizing this poisonous legacy. Even more important, however, had been his parents’ decision about Henry himself. The previous autumn he had been given all of Richard of Shrewsbury’s titles and offices – with one exception: the dukedom of Norfolk. That was left unfilled, as a final carrot to be dangled in front of the Howards.
And, as it happened, it was Henry himself who would restore it to them, along with the ancient office of earl marshal, which the Mowbray dukes had held in hereditary succession, and which Henry
been granted in 1494.
Henry, whether or not he was present at the wedding, was deeply interested in its outcome. Anne Plantagenet was his aunt and one of his mother’s leading attendants; Lord Thomas was now his uncle; while their children would be his cousins and, apart from his own siblings, his closest relations near to his own age. Four were born, three of whom died at birth. The fourth lived and was baptized Thomas after his father. But this baby too died on 3 August 1508, and was buried at Lambeth with the monumental inscription ‘Lord Howard, son of Thomas Lord Howard, and of his wife the daughter of Edward IV’.
One wonders what his pride would have been had he lived – or what kind of problems he would have presented to his cousin Henry.
Anne herself died in 1511, and her husband promptly set himself to find another wife who would keep him within the charmed – and dangerous – circle of royalty.
Henry may have had a second family wedding to attend in 1495 as Catherine Plantagenet, aged only sixteen and next to the youngest of the queen’s sisters, followed Anne to the altar. Her husband was Lord William Courtenay, son and heir of the earl of Devon. Their marriage settlement was also ratified in the same parliament as the more complex one between Anne and Lord Thomas Howard. By the act, the earl transferred his principal estates to a group of trustees to the ultimate benefit of his son and daughter-in-law.
First of a distinguished list of names was Henry himself as duke of York.
On the other hand, the queen’s involvement does not appear so explicitly as in the arrangement of the Howard marriage. But her role must have been similar, since she financed this marriage as well by supporting the whole young family: she paid for clothes for Lord William, gave Lady Catherine an annuity of
50 as one of her principal ladies and defrayed the entire cost of bringing up their children.
* * *
Once again, it was politics that spoke. The sixth and seventh Courtenay earls of Devon had been committed Lancastrians, and had paid the price: the former was beheaded after the battle of Towton in 1461; the latter was killed at Tewkesbury, that graveyard of Lancastrian hopes, ten years later. With the death of the seventh earl the direct line of the house was extinguished. The
heir was Edward Courtenay of Bocconock in Cornwall, who des-cended from a collateral branch. In 1483, like his kinsman Peter Courtenay, bishop of Exeter, Edward threw his lot in with the Tudor cause: he joined in Buckingham’s revolt, escaped its failure by fleeing to join Henry Tudor in Brittany, returned with him in August 1485, fought at Bosworth and was restored to the earldom the following October.