Analysis of Crowland’s Section on the Usurpation of Richard III

Richard IIIAnalysis of Crowland’s Section on the Usurpation of Richard III

Edgar de Blieck

Crowland Chronicle (2003)


Lord Hastings, who seemed to serve these dukes in every way and to have deserved favour of them, bursting with joy over this new world, was asserting that nothing had so far been done except to transfer the government of the kingdom from two blood relatives of the queen to two nobles of the blood royal, moreover he asserted that this had been accomplished without any killing and with only so much blood shed in the affair as might have come from a cut finger. However, a very few days after these words, grief completely took the place of joy. On the previous day, with remarkable shrewdness, the protector had divided the council so that in the morning, part met at Westminster, part in the Tower of London where the king was.

On 13 June, the sixth day of the week, when he came to the council in the Tower, on the authority of the Protector, Lord Hastings was beheaded. Two senior prelates, moreover, Thomas, archbishop of York, and John, bishop of Ely, saved from capital punishment out of respect for their order, were imprisoned in different castles in Wales. In this way, without justice or judgment, the three strongest supports of the new king were removed, and with all the rest of his faithful men expecting something similar these two dukes thereafter did whatever they wanted.

The following Monday they came by boat to Westminster with a great crowd, with swords and clubs and compelled the Lord Cardinal of Canterbury to enter the sanctuary, with many others to call upon the queen, in her kindness, to allow her son Richard, duke of York, to leave and come to the Tower for the comfort of his brother, the king. She willingly agreed to the proposal and sent out the boy who was taken by the Lord Cardinal to the king in the Tower of London.


From that day both these dukes showed their intentions, not in private but openly.

Armed men in frightening and unheard of numbers were called from the North, from Wales, and from whatever other districts lay within their command and power, and on the 26th day of the same month of June, Richard the Protector, claimed for himself the government of the kingdom with the name and title of king; and on the same day in the great hall of Westminster, he thrust himself into the marble chair. The pretext of this intrusion and for taking possession in this way was as follows:

It was put forward, by means of a supplication contained in a certain parchment roll, that King Edward’s sons were bastards, by submitting that he had been pre-contracted to a certain Lady Eleanor Butler before he married Queen Elizabeth, and, further, that the blood of his other brother, George, duke of Clarence, had been attainted so that, at the time, no certain and uncorrupt blood of the lineage of Richard, duke of York, was to be found except in the person of the said Richard, duke of Gloucester. At the end of this roll, therefore, on behalf of the lords and commonalty of the kingdom, he was besought to assume his lawful rights. It was put about then that this roll originated in the North whence so many people came to London, although there was no-one who did not know the identity of the author (who was in London all the time) of such sedition and infamy.

Part One: Events in the Tower: June 13

The first problem with the passage is that although it agrees with the dates of other sources, it conflicts with almost every other source’s sequencing of the events. Mancini, Vergil, More, the Great Chronicle – all place the execution of Hastings after the capture of the Duke of York. Of course, given that none of these sources is as reliable as Crowland in terms of accuracy of dating, sequence and facts generally, the Crowland account should not simply be dismissed. Crowland gives the correct dates, for example, of Edward IV’s death (9 April), Grey and Rivers’ arrests (30 April), the removal of York from sanctuary (16 June), and of Richard’s public claiming of the throne (26 June).

Until 1972, when Alison Hanham’s English Historical Review article attempting to redate Hastings’ execution was published [1], however, historians were quite content to accept the traditional wisdom of placing Hastings’ death first, on Friday 13 June, and assume mistakes (either sequential or chronological) in the other sources. However, Hanham based her conclusions on the shaky and unreliable evidence of a book containing the minutes of the mercers’ company. These seemed to suggest that people thought that Hastings was alive and at liberty on June 15. She also interpreted the ambivalent phrase dating Hastings’ death (Friday last) in Simon Stallworth’s letter (of 21 June) to Sir William Stonor [2] as “yesterday”, meaning 20 June, and not “a week past on Friday”, or 13 June. Furthermore, she dismissed the evidence in various inquisitions post mortem as “notoriously unreliable”.

When each of these pieces of evidence was reexamined by B.P. Wolffe, however, Hanham’s conclusions were somewhat savaged. Of the records of the Mercers and Merchant Adventurers, Wolffe wrote they are “not … entirely above suspicion” [3], and proceeded to undermine their reliability as evidence. His last word on the acts of court was that they did not record a decision to petition Hastings made on 15 June because the matter on which they were petitioning (the tonnage and poundage tax) had been settled on 2 June 1483 [4]. He noted that to accept Hanham’s date of 20 June meant discarding a lot of good circumstantial evidence which disagreed with it. It would mean that Richard III’s administration would have had to falsify records, with the complicity of the chief justices and archbishops as well as the men who succeeded them in office, and also a number of other legal men, and the foeffees and executors of Hastings’ family. As he says “this is not credible on the sole basis of one rather doubtful entry in a sixteenth-century copy of  the records of a London company” [5]. Wolffe’s positive evidence from the building records at the castle of Kirby Muxloe, shows that work ceased on either Monday 16 or Tuesday 17 June, as a direct result of the news of Hastings’ death reaching the clerk of works, Hastings’ steward, Roger Bowlott. This, combined with all the other evidence (including the accounts of the controller at Calais, which give the 13th as the date of death, and the inquisitions post mortem, consolidated by a family lawyer) make it clear that the 13 June dating, the dating which Crowland gives, should stand. Basically, Crowland is superior to the other narrative accounts in sequencing because the other writers (for a number of reasons gone into in detail elsewhere) imposed an interpretation of the events on the facts which allowed Hastings to survive until after Richard had control. Having said this, one has to accept that the alternative sequence would solve a number of problems, so it is perhaps not surprising that the chroniclers got it wrong.

Motives For Executing Hastings

But, having asserted that the date of execution was June 13, three days before taking custody of the duke of York, certain other problems present themselves. The Crowland version of Hastings’ execution is dramatic, but characteristically brief. It gives some concise background detail, though not much, and hardly enough to be sure of the motives for the execution:

Lord Hastings, (who seemed to serve these dukes in every way and to have deserved favour of them) bursting with joy over this new world, was   asserting that nothing had so far been done except to transfer the government of the kingdom from two blood relatives of the queen to two nobles of the blood royal, moreover, he asserted that this had been accomplished without any killing and only so much blood shed in the affair as might have come from a cut finger.

The section about the cut finger is puzzling. Did Hastings actually say something like this, which the Crowland author picked up, feeling its irony after the execution? It is certainly not implausible. But what of Hastings’ assertions: to whom and where did he make them? If there is a subtext to his remarks, (and the author of Crowland is so pathologically succinct that it seems doubtful that he would have included them if there is not one) then it is surely that Hastings implied there would be no change of king, but only a change of power. If Gloucester’s mind was already at this stage set on usurpation, then the chamberlain’s assertions would surely have to be dealt with. The full implications of the assertions for which he was killed, as far as Crowland is concerned, is that they precluded Buckingham and Richard’s two objectives, namely:

1) to do more than simply transfer the government of the kingdom from two blood relatives of the queen to two nobles of the blood royal.

2) to have more bloodshed, when the time was right, (specifically Rivers’, Grey’s, and Vaughan’s blood) and to have greater control in the kingdom thereby.

In order to understand fully the reasons the Crowland author gives for Hastings’ execution, however, the background details to the events in the tower contained in Crowland must first be explored, as they provide the setting for the execution. Above all, the question of how far Gloucester and Buckingham’s military presence was a factor in their handling of the situation must be assessed.

The Problem Of Assessing Gloucester’s Military Strength in the Capital

The difficulty with asserting that Buckingham and Richard had firm plans made at this stage to launch a bid for the crown is that there is some (admittedly circumstantial) evidence which gives the opposite impression. If Richard had from the start intended to overawe the people of London, rooting out opposition to his plan to usurp, and removing the threat of King Edward and his brother (and this is certainly the impression Crowland gives), it seems unusual that he had to send a hastily penned note to York on June 11, asking for as many well armed men as possible:

to aid and assist us against the queen, her blood adherents, and her affinity who have intended and do daily intend to murder and utterly destroy us, our cousin the duke of Buckingham, and all the old blood of this realm[6]

It does not seem too far-fetched to suggest that there is a note of paranoid hysteria in this letter, and this certainly does not come across in the Crowland account. If Richard was planning a staged usurpation, did he write this letter as an afterthought? Did he need these troops? Did he expect them simply to come rather in time to overawe the nobles who were coming to London for his coronation than to use against Hastings and the Woodvilles?  We do know from Fabyan’s evidence [7] that they were dismissed immediately after his coronation, and this may suggest that their primary purpose was to act as an impressive, though cosmetic force rather than to campaign actively. However, even if, as events transpired, they were mainly retained “for show”, inasmuch as they did no actual fighting, the reason for calling the force into being must, in the absence of other evidence, remain uncertain. The problem, of course, is whether Richard was genuinely in a panic, or whether he was trying to put the recipients of the letter in a panic.

Although this letter was dispatched in a rush (arriving with Ratcliffe on June 15), Hastings was executed and the duke of York was captured before the arrival of troops. The difficulty with the section of Crowland which deals with Hastings’ execution is that it does not give a full evaluation of Richard and Buckingham’s strength in the capital on the long weekend of 13-16 June. Without a rough knowledge of Richard and Buckingham’s numerical military strength, it is impossible to answer the question of whether or not the events in these four days were precipitate or planned. It is sure that after the removal of the duke of York:

armed men in frightening and unheard of numbers were summoned from the North, from Wales and from whatever other districts lay within their command and power

But as to how many armed men there were until this time, none of the sources are numerically reliable [8]. Presumably, though, the protector’s and Buckingham’s forces were quite large: the queen kept sanctuary, and apparently had little luck in raising troops against them [9]. The Great Chronicle’s comment, describing the Protector’s and the king’s entry to London may be significant:

Whan the blak fflete of Norwaye,

Is cummyn & goon,

Than buyld ye yowir howsis/

Of lyme & of stoon. [10]

The point of this proverb is that it is not until after the black fleet of Norway (in this context it seems most likely to be a punning reference to the protector’s black clad contingent of mourners/soldiers) has been and gone that one should invest in the expense of a lime and stone house, for there will surely not be one stone left on top of another after their visit.  It is interesting to note that the Great Chronicle makes the claim that this proverb was remembered when the protector came to London at first: evidently the sight of his troops, all parading through the city, dressed in black was an impressive sight. The importance of this proverb is that it gives the same impression of Richard’s strength as the Crowland author does when he writes that it was a great crowd with swords and clubs which came to Westminster. Perhaps these two pieces of evidence support the view that Richard’s actions in executing Hastings and removing the duke of York were neither rushed nor risky, as Richard had sufficient forces to rely on in the event of trouble.

Only Mancini says that Gloucester, Buckingham and the king entered with no more than five hundred soldiers. It seems possible, however, that Mancini made a mistake, meaning the number five hundred to refer to the official London party; More [11], and the Great Chronicle [12] both give this figure for the Londoners, but do not specify how many men Richard and Buckingham brought into London. One does not need to argue a mistake, however. This could simply be the number entering on one occasion.

Mancini, describing the capture of the king [13], makes it quite clear that the two dukes had a large retinue: they found out the king’s route to London so that in their company his entry to the city might be more magnificent.  And Richard took possession of the king with a large body of soldiers.  Contrary to the traditional interpretation, Mancini does not say that nearly all of the attendants from Wales were ordered home; rather it was the ministers of the king’s household and his attendants who were dispersed.[14]  Crowland too does not say that the king’s troops (or Earl Rivers’ troops) were dispersed: it does say that Richard had it proclaimed that:

Anyone of the king’s household should withdraw from the place at once and that they should not come near any places where the king might go, on pain of death.[15]

However, because the king and his forces were in different villages, the order seems specifically directed against the advisers and household of the king rather than the soldiers. The combined evidence from Crowland and Mancini, as well as More and the Great Chronicle is that Richard entered the capital with a large number of troops. Therefore, although the arrival of the men from York did not actually take place for a while, the dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham had effectively extended their military control of the city.

The Stallworth letter of 21 June [16], for example, corroborates the Crowland account’s picture of increasing militarisation in the capital:

On Monday last [ie June 16] was at Westm. gret plenty of harnest men … Yt is thought ther schalbe XX thousand of my lord protectour and my lord of Bukyngham men in London this weeke …

In passing, it may be said that the number 20,000 is often used in English fifteenth century sources to indicate a “large number”. (One might compare the accounts of the Oldcastle rising in 1414, for example.) However, adding to the picture of martial takeover is the detail that the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Ely’s property was being guarded:

Þer ar men in ther placese for sure kepynge. And I suppose þat þer shall be sente menne of my lord protectour to þeis lordys places in þe countre.

The picture is completed by the remark:

All þe lord Chamberleyne mene be come my lordys of Bokynghame menne.

Although “How many of Hastings’ retainers joined the duke is not known”, it has been speculated that he was struck down “to prevent [him] from calling up to London [his] company of faithful retainers” which included at least 88 knights, esquires and gentlemen, and 2 peers [17]. Nevertheless, it certainly seems doubtful that in the hostile climate of Woodville London after the death of Edward IV, that Hastings, who vehemently opposed the Woodvilles in council, would have been alone and without some fighting men.  Indeed, More tells us that the queen’s party in London was prevented from raising troops because Hastings persuaded the council that Richard’s action in capturing the king were legal and legitimate, and confirms the Crowland account which gives the impression of two armed camps in London:

Some collected their associates and stood by at Westminster in the name of the queen, others at London under the protection of Lord Hastings.[18]

In summary, it seems that as far as its depiction of the atmosphere goes (that is the atmosphere generated by the protector’s forces), Crowland is an extremely good source. It gives a frighteningly realistic picture of the climate of tension and fear which oppressed the capital during June 1483, and conveys a sense of the military nature of the coup.

Why was Hastings Executed?

Returning, therefore, to the question of why Hastings was murdered, it should be noted that Crowland, More, Mancini, and the Great Chronicle all either state or give the impression that Hastings was caught totally off-guard by the action of the protector. Crowland also makes the claim that in all his outward conduct, Hastings seemed to be on the protector’s side, and to have deserved favour. There is certainly no indication of a treasonable plot by Hastings in the Crowland account, unless (and this is surely too remote to be plausible) it is implied in the inherent contradiction that Hastings was at the same time bursting with joy over a new world, and denying that world’s existence. Mancini too emphasises the apparently good terms between Richard and Hastings (he had a friendship of long standing with the duke [19]), and although Mancini like More, the Great Chronicle and Vergil places the death of Hastings after the removal of the young prince from sanctuary, his judgment on the matter of Richard’s motivation for beheading Hastings is the same as Crowland’s in essence:

the protector rushed headlong into crime, for fear that the ability and authority of these men [Rotherham, Morton, and Hastings] might be detrimental to him: for he had sounded out their loyalty through the duke of Buckingham, and learnt that sometimes they forgathered in each other’s houses.[20]

It has recently been argued that in spite of Crowland’s evidence, the reason Richard had Hastings executed was that he “suspected that … Lord Hastings was plotting against him, possibly communicating with the Wydevilles through Edward’s former mistress, Jane Shore, now mistress to Hastings himself. The knowledge that Hastings, Thomas Rotherham … and John Morton … were frequenting each other’s houses besides meeting in the council may have been the prime cause of his suspicions.”[21]

From other evidence we know that Shore was locked up by the Ricardian regime. Stallworth’s letter to Stonor says:

Mastres Chore is in prisone: what schall happyne hyr I knowe nott [22]

and the Great Chronicle talks about her in the context of her punishment for harlotry, with Hastings, put to open penance:

ffor the lyfe that she ledd wt þe said lord hastyngys & othir grete astatys.[23]

But although these things happened, there is nothing concrete to suggest a Woodville-Hastings connection, whether through the Marquis of Dorset, or Foster (a co-steward with Hastings of the abbey of St. Albans) and more to suggest animosity between Hastings and the Woodvilles. Hastings contacted Gloucester to warn him of the Woodvilles’ activities in London. He also threatened to withdraw to Calais in protest at the Woodville’s political manoeuvres in the capital. It seems easier to agree with Mancini, when he says:

Thus fell Hastings, killed not by those enemies he had always feared, but by a friend whom he had never doubted.[24]

Even given the ingenuity of Hanham and others who have argued that there was a Ricardian plot to connect the Woodvilles with Hastings, (because Shore was imprisoned and had her property seized at about the time when Hastings was executed, and was also named as the mistress of the marquess of Dorset later [25]) the animosity of Hastings and the Woodvilles is so widely reported that it seems incredible. Shore may well have been an innocent, incidental to the plot, and the fact that she does not appear, and no hints of her activity appear in the Crowland account does suggest so: Hastings, rather than being a participant in treasonous plots against Richard, found himself caught off-guard. But the most interesting thing about Jane Shore’s arrest, is that Stallworth thought it worth mentioning. Was she connected to him or his family in some unknown way? Or perhaps she really was an important factor in the political takeover? Without other evidence to the contrary, the broad picture of all the narrative sources extant is that Hastings did find himself caught off-guard. This seems the most likely explanation for his lack of caution and his surprise at Richard’s identification of him as a traitor. What this leaves us wondering, though, is precisely how the duke of Buckingham managed to sound out the loyalty of Rotherham, Morton and Hastings. In the absence of firm evidence, speculation is not helpful one way or another. Clearly, he may have taken a personal hand in the matter, or he may have used agents, trustworthy or otherwise. There may be something in the accusations of treachery, which More levels against Catesby [26].

Before dealing with this accusation, we may note that another difficulty with the Crowland account is the ambiguity of the phrase:

However, a very few days after these words, grief completely took the place of joy.

How many days are meant by a very few days after is impossible to tell. All that can be inferred is that, in the eyes of the author of Crowland, Richard’s action was not spontaneous and came as the direct result of brooding with Buckingham upon the chamberlain’s assertions. Either that, or Hasting’s satisfaction with events was expressed in early June.

What, then, is to be made of More’s tantalising suggestion that it was William Catesby’s doing that Richard had Hastings executed?

And undoubtedly the protector loved him well [ie Hastings] and was loth to have lost him, saving for fear lest his life should have quailed for their purpose. For which cause he moved Catesby to prove with some words cast out afar off, whether he could not think it possible to win the Lord Hastings into their part. But Catesby, whether he assayed him or assayed him not, reported unto them that he found him so fast and heard him speak so terrible words that he durst no further break … And therefore [Catesby] fearing lest their motions might with the Lord Hastings minish his credence, whereunto only all the matter leaned, procured the protector hastily to rid him.[27]

More’s story is not altogether incompatible with the Crowland version: according to both accounts, Hastings was killed on the authority of the protector. Catesby certainly could have convinced the protector to do this in order:

to obtain much of the rule that the lord Hastings bare in his country [28]

even although his part in the affair is not remembered in Crowland. Catesby had sufficient motive in cupidity: the Midlands estates he sought were certainly worth having. He also had plenty of opportunity. The slant which More puts on the protector’s actions, and the motives he ascribes to him are similar to those implied in Crowland. Whereas More describes the ways in which the protector sussed out the men who were for and against him, Crowland reports (after the executions and imprisonments):

In this way, without justice or judgment, the three strongest supports of the new king were removed …

The difficulty with using the evidence of More to corroborate Crowland is that, although like all the contemporary accounts Crowland simply adumbrates the events and motives, additional evidence from Tudor sources is not always the culmination of a disinterested tradition of information gathering, meriting confidence: sometimes (indeed often, in More’s case) Tudor sources simply rehearse an authorised, entrenched, standardised doctrine, complete with exaggeration, and invention. Because More includes some attestable facts – facts which often imply a modicum of research – it can be difficult to know when precisely to discount the evidence he presents as unreliable or uncorroborated. In the absence of other corroborating or contradicting evidence, his angle on the chamberlain’s death must be used only with caution to inform Crowland’s more reliable, if sketchier picture. We must conclude that the reason why Richard took action against Hastings (after brooding on the assertions Hastings may or may not have made publicly) could have been because Catesby let him hear of these assertions. The point, in other words is unresolved. However, as with Shore, Catesby does not feature in Crowland, and although negative evidence is very slight evidence, this does suggest either that Catesby was not involved (Mancini suggests Buckingham – not Catesby – did Richard’s reconnaissance) or that Crowland’s author did not know of Catesby’s involvement. Surely, given Crowland’s generally high standard of information, the latter is the least likely circumstance, even taking the continuator’s general brevity into consideration?

But the author of Crowland does make some mistakes. In the description of the aftermath of the events in the tower, for example, he says that both Thomas, archbishop of York and John, bishop of Ely:

were imprisoned in different castles in Wales.

In fact, although the bishop of Ely was taken to Wales in Buckingham’s custody, Rotherham’s fate was different, he being, according to Vergil, taken not to Wales, but:

committed to the custody of sir James Tirrell, knight. [29]

What is more, he seems to have come to terms with the new regime. As far as it goes, the negative evidence, that he did not participate in the autumn rising, suggests this.

However, although this is probably little more than an unconscious mistake, and Crowland is in general attestably the most accurate source, it is difficult to distinguish what it tells us about the position of the chronicler relative to the events he describes. The complication of not knowing for sure who wrote the continuation poses the greatest difficulty even in a passage as factually correct as this one: discerning the unconscious bias inherent in point of view is not possible.

However, as a broad analysis of the results of the events in the tower on 13 June, Crowland is extremely reliable. The Protector was shrewd to take full advantage of the normal practice of dividing the council. Perhaps the Cely paper’s comment to the effect that John Russell, who was heading up the other half of the council on June 13, was dyssprowett and nott content [30] strengthens the credibility of the analysis in the Crowland account, which says:

In this way, without justice or judgment, the three strongest supports of the new king were removed and with all the rest of his faithful men expecting something similar these two dukes did whatever they wanted.

In other words, the desperation Cely attributed to Russell, (who it should be remembered may either have written the Crowland account, or may have been associated with its author [31]) seems indeed to have been contagious and widespread. This fear is an important element to bear in mind: its presence implies that Richard III came to the throne against the wills of many and as a direct result of a negative sentiment which  would surely be a factor in the relations he had over the next few days in his bid for the throne. In that the impression of the atmosphere which Crowland presents is substantially similar to that of the other sources, it seems a highly reliable account. In that Crowland mixes factual accuracy with an analytical gloss on the facts, it is for the events of 13 June a source unsurpassed in usefulness.

Part Two: The Removal of the Duke of York from Sanctuary

As the Crowland chronicle says, apart from the capture of the king’s relatives at Stony Stratford, the flight of the queen and many of her party into the sanctuary of Westminster caused a reaction in London. Her decision to take sanctuary was a clear sign for all to see:

that the protector did not show sufficient consideration for the dignity and peace of mind of the queen [1].

Simon Stallworth, writing on the ninth of June to Sir William Stonor began his letter:

As for tydyngs seyns I wrote to yove we her noun newe. Þe Quene kepys style Westm., my lord of ¥orke, my lord of Salysbury with othyr mo wyche wyll nott departe as ¥ytt.[2]

In other words, having already written sometime before the fifth of June [3] to inform Stonor of the queen’s May day flight into sanctuary, Stallworth updated him on the situation on the ninth of June. The point of the queen’s flight into sanctuary was that she hoped by it to safeguard her sons. It was a move calculated to embarrass Richard, and on 16 June he did something  quite spectacular about it. Crowland, having set the scene, and given an impression of mounting pressure in London, gives an account of the removal of the duke with an analysis of the politics and import of the events.

The Question of Consent and the Official Pretext for Removing the Duke of York from Sanctuary

The two best sources for the events of 16 June are Mancini and Crowland. The accounts give a very similar picture of the events of that day, and the best touchstone for measuring the value of Crowland as a source is Mancini. Crowland includes some accurate information not found in Mancini, and Mancini expands upon certain features of Crowland [4].

Mancini does not mention, as Crowland does, that the party which came to Westminster arrived by boat [5], but gives a similar impression of the scene:

Therefore, with the consent of the council he surrounded the sanctuary with troops. When the queen saw herself besieged and preparation for violence, she surrendered her son. [7]

Although Crowland does not say in as many words that this action was taken with the specific consent of the council, it does give the impression that at the least, seeing what had happened to Hastings, it was not about to offer any opposition:

In this way, without justice or judgment, the three strongest supports of the new king were removed, and with all the rest of his faithful men expecting something similar these two dukes thereafter did whatever they wanted.

Although Mancini at first gives the impression of a weak-willed council, he later notes that:

the lords consulted their own safety, warned by the example of Hastings, and perceived the alliance of the two dukes, whose power, supported by a multitude of troops, would be difficult and hazardous to resist.[8]

It is important for an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Crowland to note that the two accounts of Mancini and Crowland conflict in the details of the official motives Richard put forward for laying siege to Westminster.  Whereas Crowland puts forward the idea that the queen was entreated:

to allow her son Richard, duke of York, to leave and to come to the tower for the comfort of his brother the king,

Mancini says that the protector claimed that the young prince:

was held by his mother against his will in sanctuary, and that he wanted to be with his brother.[9]

It is therefore necessary to look more closely at the Tudor sources, to see if they shed light on the accuracy of Crowland. In fact, Vergil offers a different official reason for the forcible removal of the Duke than Crowland. His highly dramatic version of the events has Richard asking rhetorically:

But what shall we say of the evell cownsayle which they who most maligne and hate me have geaven to quene Elizabeth? who withowt any just cause, cownterfayting feare so folyshly, hath enterprysed to cary in all haste the kings children as wicked, wretched, and desperate nawghtie parsons into sanctuary, thonly refuge in earth of povertie, det, and lewd behavyor, as thoughe we went abowt to destroy them, and that all owr doinges tendyd to violence … But we are to provyde remedy betimes for this womanishe disease creping into owr commonwelthe, to the woorst example trewly that may be.  What a sight I pray you shalle yt be to se the day wherin the king shalbe crowned, yf … his mother, brother, and sisters shalbe remane in sayntuary.[10]

Unlike Crowland, Vergil’s account of the official justification for taking possession of the boy thus stresses the impropriety of the prince’s being in sanctuary, and the need for him to attend the coronation.

Similarly to Vergil, More writes that at a meeting of the lords of the council, the protector:

proposed unto them that it was a heinous deed of the queen and proceeding of great malice toward the king’s counsellors, that she should keep in sanctuary the king’s brother from him, whose special pleasure and comfort were to have his brother with him … And verily it redoundeth greatly to the dishonor both of the king’s highness … to have it run … that the king’s brother should be fain to keep sanctuary. For every man will ween that no man will do so for nought. [11]

Thus, for More, the impropriety of the Duke’s situation, as well as the king’s own desire to see his brother are the paramount considerations of the pretext for threatening to breach sanctuary. It may be, given that both of these elements are proposed in more than one source, that they were both offered by the protector’s regime. Although there is no convincing proof which makes the Tudor sources’ accounts preferable to Crowland, they do seem to offer more likely terms of official justification for forcibly taking custody of a boy in sanctuary. Whatever the case, it needs also to be remembered that the sanctuary debate may well reflect issues of lively debate at the time when More and Vergil were writing. It seems on the face of it unlikely that the young king’s supposed desire to see his brother would have been put forward as an official justification for so drastic a course of action. The notion that the duke of York had some official part to play at the coronation, or that it was improper for him to be in sanctuary, have more weight. The Crowland author may be correct, but it seems perhaps more likely that he is adding a detail of dramatic pathos to the scene.[12]

The Roles of the Cardinal Archbishop and the Queen

Skirting over the issue of the pretext for removing the duke from sanctuary, the Great Chronicle says only that:

The protectour beyng accompanyed wyth tharchbysshopp of Cauntyrbury than naymd doctor Bowser went unto westmynstyr and there behavid hym soo gloriously unto the Quene with his manyffold dyssymylid ffayer promysys, That nowthir she nor yit the bysshopp hadd In hym any maner of Suspicion of Gyle, But In good & lovyng maner trystyng ffully It shuld be ffor the weale of the child, delyverd unto theym the duke of york than beyng a child abowth Þe age of Sevyn yeris …[13]

Because in many aspects of detail the Great Chronicle version is corroborated by the other sources, it is useful for corroborating the account found in the Crowland Chronicle. It is especially helpful for analysing the Crowland account’s depiction of the roles of the queen and the cardinal. Mancini, for example, corroborates the Great Chronicle’s affirmation of the Cardinal’s lack of suspicion, saying that:

Indeed, the cardinal was suspecting no guile, and had persuaded the queen to do this, seeking as much to prevent a violation of the sanctuary as to mitigate by his good services the fierce resolve of the duke.[14]

Although Crowland’s account of the cardinal’s role has to be interpreted in the light which the other sources shed on his motives, suspicions, and conduct, in this instance the version Crowland gives does not necessarily conflict with Mancini and the Great Chronicle, but neither does it definitely confirm what they say:

They came … with a great crowd … and compelled the lord Cardinal of Canterbury to enter the sanctuary, with many others to call upon the queen, in her kindness to allow her son … to leave.

The difficulty with this passage is that the term compelled [15] could mean a number of different things about the attitude of Bourchier. Did the cardinal not have any choice but to approach the queen, having been threatened with violence if he did not? Or did the thought of a violation of sanctuary compel him to talk to her? It must be remembered that the arrests of two powerful churchmen (viz Rotherham and Morton) took place only a few days before, and this would certainly have focused the cardinal’s mind.

And what does the Crowland text mean when it says that the queen willingly agreed to the proposal and sent out the boy? Was she taken in by the Cardinal, and the many others [16] who told her lies to preserve the sanctuary, or is it simply the writer’s sarcastic gloss on her predicament? Surrounded by armed troops, and presented by the cardinal archbishop, the highest churchman in the land, with the argument that the boy ought not to remain in sanctuary, the Crowland author seems to ask: what else could she do? If one interprets the Crowland text’s statement as an additional piece of pathos, and not a genuine desire on the part of the queen to relinquish her son, then Crowland can again be said to convey a vivid sense of the reality of the scene

Edward V’s Sisters

What was the place of the young king’s sisters in all of this? Crowland is ambiguous on the matter of whether or not the girls were wanted. It says simply that the cardinal was compelled to ask the queen:

to allow her son … to leave

but this, of course, does not mean that the daughters were not also asked for. Since in the end it was only the Duke of York who left, it might not have been recorded that the girls were also requested [17].

Because Vergil mentions the girls, Crowland’s omission is important. Vergil, who in some of his detail is corroborated by Stallworth, states that the archbishop of Canterbury, the duke of Buckingham, Lord Howard, and sundry other grave men went to the sanctuary:

to perswade the quene with many fayre wordes and perswations that she wold returne with hir children into the palace … but the woman … could not be movid … which whan they understoode, fynally they demandyd to be delyveryd to them hir soon Richerd onely [18]

Mancini explains that the son of the late George, duke of Clarence was kept in confinement in the household of [Richard’s] wife … For he feared that if the entire progeny of King Edward became extinct, yet this child, who was also of royal blood, would still embarrass him. [19] Was there, as Crowland’s silence on the matter suggests, no potential for embarrassment from Edward IV’s daughters?

It is an interesting comment on the accuracy of Crowland in depicting the political situation that although Stallworth talks about the duke of York in his letter of 9 June, he, like Crowland omits to mention the daughters of the queen – Elizabeth, Cecily, Anne, Catherine, and Bridget, who were also in the sanctuary. Obviously, like the Crowland author he did not consider them to be of great political importance.

Earlier on in his narrative, Mancini makes it clear that Buckingham was of the opinion that:

it was not the business of women but of men to govern kingdoms [20].

Mancini also records, however, that Richard, on hearing the news of his brother’s death, wrote a letter to the queen and professed his loyalty to all his brother’s issue, even female, if perchance, which God forbid, the youth [ie Edward V] should die.

Vergil, who also records the fact that Richard wrote to the queen, says that in the letter he promised naturall affection towards his brothers children [21] but does not suggest that Richard said he would be loyal even to his nieces.

Of the correspondence, Crowland says only that Richard:

promised to come and offer submission, fealty and all that was due from him to his lord and king.[22]

What does this mean, then, in terms of the queen being allowed to retain her daughters? Did she look on them as a security, regarding them as potential queens, whose husbands could resist Gloucester in case her sons were murdered? It is difficult to see how this could be the case, because the Yorkist claim to the throne had, since the descent from Edmund Langley, duke of York in Edward III’s time, been in the male line. (Of course, strictly speaking, this male descent was valid only since 1471, and it ought to be noted that in 1460, Richard, duke of York had put forward a claim in the female line.) Equally, then, it is hard to know what the decision not to take the girls tells us about Richard’s motives. Did he feel that acquiring all the boys of royal stock was enough to secure his position as ruler? If he intended at this stage to usurp the throne, why did he not remove the queen’s daughters as well as her son? To these questions, Crowland does not give a complete answer, although it does suggest that Richard did not intend to base his power solely on the removal of all other contenders to the throne:

From that day both these dukes showed their intentions, not in private but openly. Armed men in frightening and unheard of numbers were summoned from the north, from Wales and from whatever other districts lay within their command and power.

In that Crowland concentrates very much on the realpolitik, it gives the most credible explanation of why the protector sought mainly the duke of York, and not his sisters: the political situation depended on military might and the ability to enforce a claim to the throne.

The Political Effects of Taking York from Westminster

Irrespective of when Richard actually decided to usurp, his methods, and their effects are made clear in the Crowland chronicle. Its most telling remark, in terms of Gloucester’s strategy, and in some ways the most astute piece of political commentary is that it was from the day of capturing the duke of York that the dukes did not conceal their intentions.

Before the princes were both in the tower, Richard’s plans were anyone’s to guess, but after so shocking and sudden a manoeuvre, which followed close on the heels of the capture of the queen’s relatives, the execution of Hastings and the imprisonment of the bishop and the archbishop, his intentions were not hard to discern. The Crowland account’s statement that their intentions became clear after taking possession of York is partially corroborated by More, who writes:

When the protector had both children in his hands, he opened himself more boldly, both to certain other men, and also chiefly to the duke of Buckingham, although I know that many thought that this duke was privy to all the protector’s counsel even from the beginning.[23]

According to Mancini [24], unprecedented alarm caused by Hasting’s death made it seem that the coronation must be deferred … All the peers of the realm … supposed they were called [to London] both to hear the reason for Hasting’s execution and to decide again about the coronation of Edward.

In spite of what Mancini says about the effect of the death of Hastings on the public of London, however, of itself, and probably because of the measures taken to calm the multitude, as Mancini put it [25], the execution of Hastings apparently caused no one to fear for the princes: neither the Stonor letter of 21 June nor the Cely letter of 24 June [26] was inspired by the immediate political circumstances of the chamberlain’s execution. Stonor was prompted to write by the deliverance of the duke of York. He gives Hastings’ death a sentence, but the impression one gets is that it is much more background information. Perhaps earlier letters by Stonor and Cely, which no longer survive, detailed the initial reaction to that event. Letter writers in the middle ages often repeated or recapitulated vital details in sequences of letters, in case one written second should arrive first, or the first should get lost. This is the case, for example in numerous ambassadorial exchanges recorded in the Calendars of State Papers for Milan and Venice. What worries Stallworth is the thought that the duke of York may have been in danger. Although he writes that the duke was mery, the force of the statement is that he is, blessid be Jhesus, mery.

George Cely, jotting his impressions of the volatile political events, calculated that the king was in danger: God ssaffe his lyffe, he writes. Both letters reinforce the argument of the Crowland analysis of what the effect and purpose of the removal of the young Duke of York from sanctuary was. If Cely had not heard of the suspicious and violent removal of the prince, why should he have feared for the king’s future? And why should he write that the “Lorde Prynsse” [ie the Duke of York] might be “trobellett”? There would be little need to add “wher [whom] God defend” if the Duke was in no trouble.

The Crowland version, which correctly places the execution before the abduction modifies Mancini’s vision of a hysterical populace, outraged by the execution of Hastings. The real reason the peers were in London and meeting in Westminster was neither to decide on a new date for the coronation, nor to find out why Hastings had died: the previous dates had       been picked without their assistance, and it was published in lengthy pre-prepared notes that Hastings was a traitor. They were there to witness Richard’s show of force. He had packed the capital with his men. He had ensured that no one brought more of a retinue than a few attendants, who were indispensable for their personal service [27]. They were there, in effect, to witness the protector thrust himself into the marble chair.  Because Crowland gets the sequence of events correct, its analysis of the protector’s method is a lot clearer, and so is its understanding and recollection of the political effects of removing York from Westminster.

From the Crowland Chronicle’s account of the usurpation, it seems that although the execution of Hastings was an important event politically, its importance may not have immediately been apparent to the population at large. In fact, it did not provoke any wide-scale panic. The events which really set alarm bells ringing were the capturing of the duke of York, and the arrival in or near London of large numbers of northern retainers, along with the propaganda for which Richard and Buckingham were responsible. Of course, the capital was full of armed men, so there would be little chance of effective and speedy opposition to the two dukes. Alarm could not be transposed into action.

Part Three: Non Clanculo sed Palam

The last section of the extract of the Crowland chronicle is the least informative, in terms of reliable details, although it does give a realistic outline of the important historcal issues. After describing the removal of the duke of York, Crowland says that: these dukes showed their intentions, not in private but openly.

The Crowland account does not give any specific information of the numerous steps which Richard and Buckingham took to undermine the princes’ claims to the throne, and to secure the throne for Richard. For example, it says nothing of the fact that Richard took immediate action to defer the date of the coronation [1]. Although Crowland says that the dukes showed their intentions openly from that day forth, this is technically inaccurate. The fact that the coronation was officially deferred until November, as well as the fact that official writs were sent out to postpone parliament [2] and the coronation means that even after 16 June, Richard was keen to give the impression of loyalty to Edward V. What the author of Crowland probably meant was that from the capturing of the princes on, the intentions of the dukes were obvious.

Crowland’s remarks to the effect that Richard and Buckingham showed their hand are true, only inasmuch as they abbreviate the detailed programme of propaganda on which the dukes embarked between the capture of York and taking possession of the throne. What does come across in Crowland is the way in which Richard sought to cultivate public opinion by pretending if not to a reluctance to accept the crown, then certainly to reticence about actively seeking it: Crowland emphasises the fact that Richard had his entitlement to the throne put to him (it was put forward by means of a supplication etc) and that he had it put about that this roll originated in the north, whence so many people came to London.

In other words, Crowland does suggest that Richard kept himself in the background and relied on other people to make the running.

The Crowland author, however, does not, as Mancini does [3], relate the details that Richard took off his mourning garb, adopted purple raiment and processed through the capital in regal style to receive applause, daily entertaining more and more people to dinner. Neither does Crowland refer to the preaching at St Paul’s cross of Dr Shaa on Sunday, June 22, or to the speeches of Buckingham and Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam in the guild hall on June 24, or to the situation of the public petitioning of Richard on his balcony at Baynard’s Castle on June 25.[4]

For Crowland, the steps taken to manipulate public opinion were less important that the fact of Richard’s military strength, and his actual taking possession of the throne. The author of the chronicle says that he gives a delineation of the pretext of this intrusion and for taking possession. In fact, all that he does is repeat almost verbatim some parts of the text of the parliamentary document (the supplication contained in a certain parchment roll) [5] of January 1484. This parchment roll was produced when parliament was asked to ratify Richard’s usurpation, and a petition to the duke of Gloucester (ie not to King Richard) was presented to the house. In this case, Crowland’s evidence, because it draws on another official source, is not the best one on which to rely for a clear picture of all the claims and manoeuvres (or sedition and infamy!) with which Richard justified his claim and entitlement to the throne. This is the case, even although Crowland does say nothing, which is not in the text of the roll. The supplication itself contains more reasons why Richard should be king, and charges against Elizabeth Woodville.[6]

Difficulties with the Pretext for taking the throne: Did Richard Accuse His Mother of Adultery?

Crowland’s version of the Ricardian pretext for taking the throne contains details which are somewhat different to those reportedly contained in Shaa’s and Buckingham’s addresses. Whereas the accounts of Shaa’s speech suggest that he declared the duke of Gloucester’s title to the throne by reason of the illegitimacy of both Edward IV and his sons [7] Crowland says only that:

King Edward’s sons were bastards [because] he had been pre-contracted to a certain lady Eleanor Butler before he married Queen Elizabeth.

In all the accounts of Buckingham’s address to the mayor, aldermen and citizens of London in the guild hall [8]  Buckingham too reasoned that Richard should be king on the grounds of the illegitimacy of both Edward IV himself and Edward’s sons.

It is difficult to know whether or not in this instance Crowland has recorded all the reasons actually put forth for making Richard king. Although there is unanimity in the other sources suggesting that Richard was quite content to slander his mother’s reputation, it is interesting to note that Crowland does not refer to this aspect of the propaganda. When one remembers that Richard was actually residing in London in his mother’s house, it does seem unlikely that he would deliberately invite her wrath by himself having her adultery proclaimed abroad.

Nevertheless, if Richard did not claim that his mother was an adulteress, then the claim of his nephew the earl of Warwick, Clarence’s son, would not easily be dismissed. It is perhaps significant that in the parliament roll and in the Crowland account only Edward IV’s sons were declared bastards, and not Edward IV. If Edward IV had been illegitimate, then the issue of George, duke of Clarence would have had a better claim than Richard, since Clarence’s treason (against an illegitimate king) could hardly have debarred his son’s succession. Crowland says quite categorically that:

no certain and uncorrupt blood of the lineage of Richard, duke of York, was to be found except in the person of the said Richard, duke of Gloucester


the blood of … George, duke of Clarence, had been attainted.

Perhaps there was some uncertainty (or over-zealousness) in the preaching of Shaa, and in the spin doctoring of Buckingham, and this has survived in the records left by the other commentators, who did not refer as Crowland did to the official pretext for taking the throne. It is, however, hard to read into Buckingham’s speech an attempt to place Richard on a sabotaged throne with a view to knocking him off it again later. To do this would be to disregard the great help Buckingham gave to Richard in making his bid for the throne, and most probably to overrate both his deviousness and imagination. It is easier to believe that Buckingham either made a mistake in his script (perhaps he thought up another reason for debarring Edward V and his brother from the succession on his own, in the heat of the moment) or that he has been misquoted. Are we to doubt his deviousness or his intelligence?

Crowland: the Official Rationalisation

That Crowland gives the official pretext for Richard’s taking the throne is a fact which is made plain not only by the parliamentary roll, but also by evidence from Harleian manuscript 433, the signet docquet book [9]. There is a mandate to the receiver of the honour of Tutbury to make payments for services to:

Our dearest brother, late king, whom God assoil

and also to:

Edward bastard, late called King Edward the fifth.

Clearly, as far as the official documents go, Crowland is correct to say that Richard’s entitlement to the throne was that his nephews were barred. Crowland is accurate about the official date of Richard’s assumption of the throne. It was:

on the 26th day of … June [that] Richard, the protector, claimed for himself the government of the kingdom, with the name and title of king.

The Niceties of Usurpation

It is interesting too that Crowland emphasises the ways in which the formalities of Richard’s assumption of power were observed:

in the great hall of Westminster he thrust himself into the marble chair.

Even if Crowland does not go into the same detail as More, Vergil, or the other chroniclers who give an account of Richard’s machinations, and who detail the extent to which he had difficulty rigging public opinion, there is a lot of sentiment behind the word thrust [intrusit], and the general impression is that Richard made himself king through fear. Like Edward IV, Richard followed certain procedures in order to give the semblance of a formal and legitimate possession of the throne. Claiming kingship, Richard sat upon (and thus took possession of) the king’s seat – the seat where justice was done formally, in the middle of the king’s bench.

More adds some details which may help to flesh out Crowland’s few, but reliable details. Richard declared that he would take the crown, and minister the law, as he considered it the king’s first duty to minister the laws. Richard also offered a general pardon, and a specific pardon for Sir John Fogge [10], before leaving to greet the crowds. The point of the exercise was that Richard tried to justify and legitimise his actions by following the precedents of his brother, and by going through traditional procedures. Although Crowland does succeed in portraying this, its account is a lot sketchier than others of the chronicles.


As a source for the usurpation, Crowland is unsurpassed. Its chief merit is its accuracy, not only about names, and events, but also about sequences and dates. Although it is at times frustratingly brief (perhaps the circumstances in which it was written allowed its author little opportunity to expand?), it conveys in its brevity something of the speed of the events, as well as the various stages of bewilderment, discontent and fear through which the majority of the population must have passed. Furthermore, it creates these impressions by sticking to the bare bones of the usurpation, without extraneous detail: the Crowland author’s is the almost detached viewpoint of someone with an eye for political analysis, but not blind to the horror. Crowland sheds light on murky business.

Lingering in one’s mind after reading the Crowland account are a series of unpleasantly clear images: There is the scrupulosity of a “protector” who painstakingly legitimises the illegitimate; the pathos in the plight of those whom neither God nor holy church would defend; the suddenness and unexpectedness of the grief which inexplicably took the place of joy; the intrusion into the throne of Divine justice of a devil. Although the Crowland author has a very clear idea in his own mind of what the events were about, and his purpose in writing is to record them without any conscious introduction of falsehood, hatred or favour [1], it is difficult to read this account and remain an admirer of Richard III, no matter what provocation or pretexts he may or may not have felt he had.

Appendix: a Note on Authorship

The problem of the authorship of this section of the Crowland chronicle has never been solved. However, there is some internal evidence in this passage which seems to support the theory that the chronicle was written by an associate of the chancellor, John Russell.

In the Cely letter [1], John Russell is referred to as being dyssprowett and nott content. Hanham’s comment to the effect that “Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York, had been replaced as Chancellor by John Russell, Bishop of Lincoln … but is probably the person meant” [2] in the phrase the Chavnseler ys dyssprowett is unconvincing, and hinges on an interpretation of the word dyssprowett which, given the context of the passage is less likely than the interpretation which says the word is a corruption of desperate [3]. Furthermore, John Russell, as Professor J.A.F. Thomson has pointed out [4], was a man whose “departmental responsibilities inevitably kept him near the centre of royal administration at Westminster” and “most indications of his location after his promotion to the greater see of Lincoln in 1480 suggest that public duties kept him close to London”. In other words, as a wealthy and impressive churchman in contact with Londoners almost daily, as well as a leading figure in the royal administration, it is difficult to believe that he could be mistaken for his predecessor in the office. Furthermore, more than a month had passed since his appointment.  It certainly seemed to some that the chancellor (Russell) genuinely was desperate and not content: when the protector’s men burst in on the half of the council meeting in the tower on June 13, Russell was not present and there is no indication that he was privy to what was to happen. Albeit that this does not constitute firm evidence of his disapproval of Gloucester’s actions, it nevertheless does not discount the possibility that observers of events, who knew that he was not present at the tower [5], might have seen in his reaction to the events a sense of desperation, and uncertainty.

If it is objected that his presence at the removal of the Duke of York is evidence of his complicity in Richard’s usurpation, one might note that he probably accompanied the mob to Westminster in his official capacity as the administrator of Edward IV’s will, in which, if Mancini is to be believed it was specified that the duke of Gloucester should govern … and because by law the government ought to devolve on him [6]. Perhaps the Bishop’s presence at Westminster on 16 June also helps to explain the accuracy of the chronicle’s account of the events: they could have been described by Russell or an eyewitness in his entourage.

Professor Thomson notes that Russell, who was confirmed as chancellor on the day of the new king’s accession “clearly acquiesced” in the manoeuvres before Richard’s usurpation. What the Cely letter gives is the impression that even on the 24th June, some people felt he was not altogether happy about it. Professor Thomson is, of course, correct to state that “there is certainly no clear evidence that … his loyalty was suspect”. There may be, however, some circumstantial evidence that his loyalty was ultimately considered questionable by Richard: at two crisis points in Richard III’s reign, during Buckingham’s rebellion and before Buckingham’s defeat and death in 1485, Russell, claiming illness, surrendered the great seal. Perhaps the most interesting point here, is that it was restored to him in November 1483.

In Stallworth’s letter too [7], it is said that Russell is busy, with myche besynes and more then he is content with all, yf any other ways wold be tayn. This last phrase: yf any other ways wold be tayn,  in the context of the previous sentence, about the XX thousand of my lord protectour, who would come ostensibly to kepe the peas clearly means that the Bishop of Lincoln did not want the troops to do anything but to keep the peace; he feared that they would be used to smooth the process of usurpation. Given the Crowland passage’s emphasis on the number of armed men, and the use which the protector made of them, it does not seem unlikely that there may have been a Russell connection with the Crowland author.

If, as has been postulated, Russell was either the author (unlikely) or was associated with the author of the Crowland chronicle, then the Cely appraisal of events, the Stallworth letter to Stonor and the Chronicle’s account of the usurpation may have a source in common, and this would certainly help to explain the anti-Ricardian slant which characterises much of Crowland’s analysis, and why Richard might demur from fully trusting Russell in times of obvious military crisis. At any rate, if, as Mancini says, Russell replaced Rotherham because Richard wanted a chancellor who would be less likely to be faithful to Edward’s heirs come what might [8] the combined evidence of Crowland, and the Cely paper suggests that Richard may well have felt that he had not been altogether successful.

A further indication that Crowland may well have been written by an associate of the bishop of Lincoln is that there are numerous instances in which Edward’s will is referred to. In the Crowland account, to give only one example, Lord Hastings dies even whilst asserting that nothing had so far been done except to transfer the government of the kingdom from two blood relatives of the queen to two nobles of the blood royal. That is, he dies for asserting the letter of the law as it was perhaps contained in Edward’s will. In the most recent lengthy account of politics in England, it has been written:

“The author of the Croyland Continuation, the other main narrative source for [Richard III’s] reign, who was very close to the centre of affairs, implies that Edward’s will, whatever it was, was carried out” [9]. As a man responsible for carrying out the will, the chancellor, if he were giving an account of the events of the usurpation would certainly incorporate details of the will of the late king.

There is nothing in this passage of the chronicle which definitely associates the bishop of Lincoln with Crowland. But there are, I think, some indications that he was affiliated with its author, and there are certainly no pieces of evidence which suggest that such a connection would be impossible. All that can be said is that, if the Crowland passage was written by an associate of the chancellor, then it helps to explain both its bias and its accuracy. Admittedly, I have nothing new to add about the probable circumstances of its writing, although, the point is worth stressing, that if it was written whilst Russell was at Crowland, obviously he would have been too busy to write, although an associate may have had time on his hands.

Notes to Part One

[1] Alison Hanham: Richard III, Lord Hastings  and the Hisorians, English Historical Review [subs. cit. EHR], vol. 87 (1972), pp. 233 – 248

[2] Christine Carpenter (ed.) Kingsford’s Stonor Letters and Papers 1290 – 1483 [subs. cit. Stonor], (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996) pp. 416-7

[3] EHR 1974, p.836

[4] EHR 1976, p.819

[5] EHR 1974, p.844

[6] York Civic Records, vol. 1 [subs. cit. YCR],  Angelo Raine (ed.) (Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Record Series, xcviii, 1938) p.73

[7] Robert Fabyan: New Chronicles of England and France [subs. cit. Fabyan], ed. H. Ellis (London, 1858) p.669

[8] The Great Chronicle of London [subs. cit. Great Chronicle], A.H. Thomas and I.D. Thornley (eds.) (London, 1938) p.230, says that there were 500 Common Londoners dressed in violet, but it does not say how many troops Richard brought with him, although the clear impression is that there were a lot more than five hundred of the king’s and Gloucester’s men, all dressed in black.

[9] Dominic Mancini, The Usurpation of Richard III [subs. cit. Mancini] C.A.J. Armstrong (ed.) (Alan Sutton, Gloucester, 1989) p.79

[10] Great Chronicle p.230

[11] Thomas More: History of King Richrd the Third and Selections from the English and Latin Poems [subs. cit. More] R.S. Sylvester (ed.) (Yale University Press, Newhaven and London, 1976) p.25

[12] Great Chronicle p.230

[13] Mancini, p.75

[14] Mancini p.75 and p.79

[15] Crowland Chronicle [subs. cit. Crowland],  Pronay and Cox (eds.), p.157

[16] See note [2]

[17] W.H. Dunham, Lord Hastings’ Indentured Retainers, 1461-1483 (USA, Archon Books, 1970), p.26. For the breakdown of these retainers’ ranks, see p.28. It is unclear, however, how many of these retainers were still active in 1483. The point is, that Hastings had the potential to call large numbers of loyal men to arms.

[18] Crowland p.157

[19] Mancini p.71

[20] Mancini, p.91

[21] J.R. Lander, Government and Community, England 1450-1509, p.315

[22] See note [2]

[23] Great Chronicle, p.233

[24] Mancini, p.91

[25] EHR 1972, pp. 245-6

[26] More p. 45-6

[27] More p.46

[28] More p.47

[29] Polydore Vergil, Three Books of Polydore Vergil’s English History [subs. cit. Vergil], H. Ellis (ed.) (Camden Society, London, 1844), p.182

[30] The Cely Letters 1472-1488 [subs. cit. Cely], Alison Hanham (ed.), (Oxford Univesity Press, Early English Text Society, vol. 273, 1975) pp. 184-5.

Notes to Part Two

[1] Crowland p.159

[2] Stonor, pp. 415-6

[3] The date when the duchess of Gloucester arrived in London, reported in the letter.

[4] Although Mancini gets the sequence of events wrong, placing the removal of the duke of York before the execution of Hastings, his actual report of the events at Westminster seems broadly accurate, once the obvious problems which his confused chronology present are untangled.

[5] The Crowland account gets the details correct: it’s assertion that the protector’s company came by boat is probably borne out by an unusual entry in the Howard household books [6], which notes payments made for the hire of a large number of boats, and specifies that they were for transport to Westminster.

[6] Household Books of John, duke of Norfolk and Thomas, earl of Surrey, 1481-90, J.P. Collier (ed.) (Roxburghe Club, London, 1844), p.402

[7] Mancini, p.89

[8] Mancini, p.97

[9] Mancini, p.89

[10] Vergil p.177

[11] More p.26

[12] The only account which does not suggest that the protector announced a pretext for his removal of the duke from Westminster is that in the Great Chronicle. Of course, since one might not expect that the writer of the Chronicle should have known what pretext was offered in council for breaching sanctuary, this does not mean that no pretext was given.

[13] Great Chronicle, pp. 230-1

[14] Mancini, p.89

[15]  cogentes is the Latin.

[16] Whereas the Great Chronicle says that the protector himself persuaded the queen to release the prince, none of the other sources say that this was so. Indeed, the letter of Stallworth to Stonor of 21 June, and More [17] says that the protector received the prince at the star chamber door with many lovynge wordys. It therefore seems likely that the Crowland account’s statement to the effect that the dukes compelled the cardinal to enter the sanctuary with many others is accurate, but probably means that the protector himself did not go into Westminster.

[17] More, p.42

[18] Vergil, p.178

[19] Mancini, p.89

[20] Mancini, p.77

[21] Vergil, p.173

[22] Crowland, p.155

[23] More, p.42

[24] Mancini, p.95

[25] Mancini, p.91

[26] Cely, pp. 184-5. The note of events written by George Cely has traditionally been assumed to be undated and unsigned. The four words at the end of the letter: de movnsewr sent jonys have been understood variously as evidence of the employment of a code, an attempt to disguise someone else’s name, and a cryptic, but unfathomable phrase. However, it seems plain that de movnsewr means from George Cely, and Sent Jonys, means on St John’s day. This was 24 June, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and a saint’s day Cely would have known, as it was commonly used for reference between creditor and debtor, when rents or other payments were due.

The letter is evidently an important message from Cely to someone who knew him as monsieur (possibly a servant of some description), and is perhaps a follow up note after an earlier one which probably included details of the infiltration of London by Gloucester and Buckingham’s men. It was apparently scribbled in haste, to let its recipients know the state of affairs in the political world. The language of the notes on the dorse leave room for speculation about the whereabouts of Cely at this time. It is possible that he may have been abroad at Calais or thereabouts. This would also explain the date of the letter: he may have had his information from someone who was in London on the 13th, and who he met on the 24th at Calais.

[27] Mancini, p.95

Notes to Part Three

[1] An unpublished entry in the City of London Journal, dated 17 June, states that the city rescinded the gift it had made for the king’s coronation, as this had already been postponed until 9 November.

[2] YCR, p.75. One writ of supersedeas reached York on 21 June.

[3] Mancini, p.95

[4] Crowland does say that:

It was put forward, by means of a supplication in a certain parchment roll

but it does not say where the scene took place, that it was the duke of Buckingham who petitioned, that he was accompanied by lords, knights and gentlemen, as well as the mayor, aldermen and chief commoners of the city.

[5] Parliament Rolls Vol. 6, pp. 240-242, January 1484

[6] Unlike Crowland, it includes the details that Edward IV’s marriage was clandestine, no bans were published, it took place in a profane place, and not openly in the face of the church, without the assent of the lords of the land, and contrary to the laudable custom of the church in England. It says that the marriage was made by the witchcraft of Elizabeth and her mother Jacquetta – a common allegation in political intrigue, but not one reported by Crowland.

[7] Great Chronicle, pp. 231-2; Fabyan, p.669; More, pp. 67-9; Chronicles of London [subs. cit. London], ed. C.L. Kingsford (Oxford, 1905) p190; Vergil, pp. 183-4.

Vergil says:

ther ys a common report that king Edwards chyldren wer caulyd basterdes, and not king Edward, which is voyd of all truthe; for Cecyly king Edwards mother … being falsely accusyd of adultery, complayned afterward. [p.184]

[8] Great Chronicle, p.232; Fabyan, p.669; More, pp. 70-9; Vergil, pp. 185-6

[9] Harley 433, Vol. 2, p.2

[10] More, p.84

Notes to the Conclusion

[1] Crowland, p.183

Notes to the Appendix

[1] Cely, pp. 184-5

[2] ibid. p. 286

[3] Here I rely on the philological expertise of Dr Jeremy Smith, of the English language department in Glasgow university. cf Middle English Dictionary, 1966, T.L. Roach (ed.) pp. 1026-7.

[4] Forthcoming New Dictionary of National Biography entry for John Russell.

[5] He was presiding over the part of the council that met at Westminster.

[6] Mancini, p. 71

[7] Stonor, pp. 416-7

[8] Mancini, p.85

[9] Christine Carpenter: The Wars of the Roses – Politics and the Constitution in England c. 1437 – 1509, (Cambridge U.P., 1997) p. 206.


Primary Sources:

1. The Crowland Chronicle Continuations: 1459-86; N. Pronay and J. Cox (eds.)

2. British Library Harleian manuscript 433; Rosemary Horrox and P.W. Hammond (eds.)

3.Calendar of Patent Rolls preserved in the PRO: Edward IV, Edward V,Richard III 1476-85.

4. Cely Letters 1472-88; Alison Hanham (ed.)

5.  Chronicles of London; C.L. Kingsford (ed.)

6. Philippe de Comines: Mémoires; J. Calmette and G. Durville (eds.)

7. Robert Fabyan: New Chronicles of England and France; H. Ellis (ed.)

8. Great Chronicle of London; A.H. Thomas and I.D. Thornley (eds.)

9. Household Books of John, duke of Norfolk and Thomas, earl of Surrey, 1481-90; J.P. Collier (ed.)

10. Dominic Mancini: Usurpation of Richard III; C.A.J. Armstrong (ed.)

11. St. Thomas More: The History of King Richard III and Selections from the English and Latin Poems; R.S. Sylvester (ed.)

12. Stonor Letters and Papers; Christine Carpenter (ed.)

13. Polydore Vergil: Three Books of Polydore Vergil’s English History; H. Ellis (ed.)

14. York Civic Records vol.1; A. Raine (ed.)

Books and Articles:

1. Attreed, Lorraine, “Hanham Redivivus” Ricardian, vol. 5, no. 65 (1979)

2. Coleman, C.H.D., “The Execution of Hastings, a Neglected Source” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research [subs. cit. BIHR], vol. 53 (1980), pp. 244-7

3. Hanham, Alison, “Hastings Redivivus”, EHR, vol. 90 (1975), pp. 821-7

4. Hanham, Alison, “Richard III, Lord Hastings and the Historians” English Historical Review [subs. cit. EHR], vol. 87

5. Hanham, Alison, Richard III and His Early Historians

6. Sutton, Anne and Hammond, P.W., “The problems of dating and the dangers of redating: the Acts of Court of the Mercers Co. of London 1453-1527” Journal of the Society of Archivists, vol. 6 (1978), pp. 87-91.

7. Thomson, J.A.F., “Richard III and Lord Hastings: A Problematical Case Reviewed” BIHR vol. 48 (1975), pp. 22-30

8. Wolffe, B.P., “When and why did Hastings lose his head?” EHR, vol. 89 (1974), pp. 835-44

9. Wolffe, B.P., “Hastings Reinterred” EHR, vol. 91 (1976), pp. 813-24

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