Back to Basics: A Series for Newer Members
Issue 8 -- March 1994
Wall of Woodvilles
| Elizabeth of York | Mediaeval
Dictionary: Terms in Land Law | Back to Index
We saw in the last
'Back to Basics' that many of the relatives of Queen Elizabeth Woodville
did indeed marry into some of the noble families of the realm thus finding
their way into positions of influence. Another accusation that is often
made against them is that they formed a 'veritable wall' of kindred
around the young Edward Prince of Wales, in Thomas More's words, 'every
one as he was nearest kin unto the Queen, so was planted next unto the
prince'. In this issue we will see whether or not this was true.
Soon after his
eldest son was born Edward IV appointed a Council for the Prince, to
administer the Principality of Wales, the Duchy of Cornwall and the
County of Chester. Early in 1473 he expanded this Council and more fully
specified its powers, sending it and the Prince to the Marches to help
control them and the Principality. The enlarged Council consisted of
some 26 members, all of those from the 1471 plus many more. Some of
the names, the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester and the Archbishop of
Canterbury for example were there because of their positions rather
than because they were expected to attend, and others such as Hastings
and William Allington, the Speaker of the House of Commons, simply as
powerful and possibly useful men. One, Sir Richard Croft had been tutor
to Edward IV when Edward was at Ludlow in the 1450s, and became a powerful
man in the region of the Marches. Others were appointed to the Council
for the particular expertise. These were such men as Sir John Nedeham,
and Sir Richard Chokke, Justices of the Common Pleas and Sir John Sulyard,
Serjeant at Law and later Justice of the King's Bench, who would be
part of the Prince's 'Council learned', usually sitting at Westminster.
These heard appeals and other judicial matters arising from the Prince's
jurisdiction in Wales.
Other members of
the Council, and more importantly, of the Household of the Prince, organised
in late 1472, are of more interest to us in the present context though.
From the first Council until 1483 we see Anthony Earl Rivers, Sir John
Fogg and Sir John Scott and joining them in 1473 is Richard Haute. Fogge
and Scott had held posts in the household of Edward IV, but perhaps
more important they, with Haute were all related to Elizabeth Woodville
or were married to cousins; Fogg to Alice Haute, daughter of Elizabeth's
aunt Joan Woodville; Scott to a grand-daughter of Elizabeth's other
aunt, another Elizabeth Woodville. Richard Haute was Controller of the
Prince's Household and son of Joan Woodville. Haute, Scott and Fogg
rose in the Buckingham revolt of 1483.
The Household was
much more closely controlled by Woodvilles than this though. Rivers,
who had been a member of the Council from the beginning was also officially
the Governor of the Prince, with John Alcock Bishop of Worcester as
President of the Council and teacher of the Prince. These two, together
with Sir Richard Grey, were all powerful. Grey, second son of the Queen,
was officially only a Councillor but with Alcock and Rivers he was authorised
to jointly sign warrants to release payments and to hold one of the
three keys to the money chest. He was rather more important than he
is often given credit for being in the later reign of Edward IV. By
new regulations issued in 1483 nothing was to be done by the Prince
without the advice of Grey, Alcock or Rivers and these three were the
only ones authorised to warn the Prince personally if he did something
'unprincely' or break his household regulations. If the Prince refused
to amend they were authorised to tell the King personally.
It is obvious from
this that the Prince of Wales was indeed being brought up in a manner
which identified him closely with one group and which encouraged him
to identify himself with the group. Not quite a wall of Woodvilles,
but very near to it.
One of the most
useful sources for reading about the education and upbringing of Edward
Prince of Wales is 'The Education of Edward V', Nicholas Orme, Bulletin
of the Institute of Historical Research, vol. 57, (1984),
pp.119-130. The work of the Council is discussed in 'The Council of
the Prince of Wales and the Decline of the Herbert Family during the
Second Reign of Edward IV (1471-1483)', D.E. Lowe, Bulletin,
Board of Celtic Studies, vol. 27, 1976-78, pp.278-297.
The Council itself is listed in Calendar of Patent Rolls,
1467-77, 1900, p. 283 (for 1471, p. 366 (for 1473). --
series on fifteenth century people let us look at the life of Elizabeth
of York, eldest child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Most of
her life was spent in the forefront of events, but nevertheless, like
most women of the period, she remains a somewhat shadowy figure.
The main sources
for her life are the biography Elizabeth of York: the mother
of Henry VIII by Nancy Lenz Harvey (published in New York
in 1973, a semi-fictionalised account, based heavily on the Tudor chronicles),
the chapter on 'Elizabeth of York, surnamed the Good, Queen of Henry
VII' in Agnes Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England,
(published in 1842 and traditional in tone) and the 'Memoir'
included in Privy
Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York: Wardrobe Acccounts of Edward IV
edited by Nicholas Harris Nicolas (1830, reprinted 1972).
Elizabeth was born
on 11th February 1465 and was christened with great splendour, her sponsors
being her two grandmothers the Duchesses of York and Bedford and Edward's
mentor the Earl of Warwick. Despite the disappointment her parents must
have felt that their first child was not the desired son and heir she
seems to have been a great favourite with her father. In common with
other royal daughters her marriage was a diplomatic bargaining counter
and she was first betrothed to George Duke of Bedford, Warwick's nephew,
to pacify the powerful Neville family, and later to the Dauphin, son
of Louis XI, to cement the treaty with France. In December 1483 Henry
Tudor proclaimed himself King of England and promised to make her his
Articles in The
Ricardian focus on various aspects of Elizabeth's life.
In June 1986 (Vol. 7, No. 93) a note compares the 1854 translation of
the often quoted passage in the Croyland
Chronicle about the Christmas 1484 festivities: 'vain changes of
apparel were presented to Queen Anne and the Lady Elizabeth...being
of similar colour and shape' with the the new translation in The
Crowland Chronicle Continuations 1459-1486 (eidted by
Nicholas Pronay and John Cox, 1986) which reads 'vain exchanges of clothing
between Queen Anne and the Lady Elizabeth...who were alike in complexion
and figure.' If this second reading is correct it gives us an indication
of the relationship between Elizabeth and her aunt and also an idea
of their appearances.
Two articles discuss
the famous letter quoted by George Buck in which Elizabeth asks John
Howard 'to be a mediator for her...to the King...her only joy.': 'Sir
George Buck and Princess Elizabeth's letter: a problem in detection'
by Alison Hanham (Vol. 7, No. 97, June 1987) and 'Buck and the Elizabeth
of York Letter: a reply to Dr. Hanham' by A. N. Kincaid (Vol. 8, No.
101, June 1988). The details of the negotiations during March to August
for Richard III to marry Joanna sister of the King of Portugal and Elizabeth
of York to marry Joanna's cousin Manuel Duke of Beja in 'The Portuguese
Connection and the Significance of the 'Holy Princess' ' by Barry Williams
(Vol. 6, No. 90, March 1983) contradict accusations that Richard was
planning to marry his niece. These marriage negotiations came to an
abrupt halt with the news of the battle of Bosworth. Elizabeth was recalled
from Sheriff Hutton where Richard had installed her, but the promised
marriage did not take place until January 1486, nearly three months
after Henry had been crowned King in his own right. Elizabeth was to
bear seven children to ensure the succession and in September 1486 she
presented Henry with the heir he needed, Prince Arthur, born at Winchester.
The following year Elizabeth was at last crowned queen; in an article
on The Coronation of Elizabeth of York (Vol. 6, No. 83, December
1983) P.W. Hammond describes the ceremony and the numbers of those who
attended, even more than at Richard III's well-attended coronation -
was this merely diplomatic or does it signify the devotion inspired
by this daughter of the popular Edward IV?
The books in which
she chose to write her name (see 'Where did Elizabeth of York find Consolation?'
by Livia Visser-Fuchs, Vol. 9, No. 122, September 1993) and the record
of her privy purse from March 1502 until her untimely death on her thirty-eighth
birthday in February 1503 (printed in Nicolas'
book, see above) give some insights into her interests and her
personal expenses and almsgiving - regretably her will, if she made
one, does not survive.
All the books and
articles mentioned above are available for loan from the Society's Library.
an interest in land. By the Common Law, no-one owns
land in England save the Sovereign. All others have greater or lesser
interests or estates in the land.
Simple: the most absolute interest which a subject can possess
in land. The owner can sell or otherwise alienate the land. In grants
denoted by the words '... to A and his heirs'.
Tail: land whose descent is limited to heirs of the body
of the original grantee.
Feoffee, Feoffment: a feoff is a freehold legal
estate in land, granted to the feoffee and transferred to
him by a feoffment, with Livery of Seisin, (q.v.)
and Equity: the Common Law is the ancient unwritten law of
England, administered in the Common Law Courts and embodied in judicial
decisions. It was sometimes rigid and unjust in particular cases;
suitors would then apply to the Chancellor as 'Keeper of the King's
Conscience' for equitable relief. These cases in Equity were
heard in what became by the fifteenth century, the Court of the Chancery.
of Seisin: investiture of possession, sometimes by delivery
of a clod of earth or other physical thing from the land.
Property: land which would descend to the heir-at-law. Property
which devolved on the executor or administrator for distribution on
death was Personal Property; this category contained leasehold interests
in land, as well as moveable property.
feudal possession of a freehold estate; not applicable to leasehold
estates or beneficial ownership under a Use, (q.v.).
the manner of holding land. Freehold land could be held by military
tenure (by rendering knight's service), in socage tenure (by paying
a money rent), or by spiritual tenure (by rendering spiritual services).
the equitable right to receive the profits from land from the owner
at law. When X granted land to Y to the use of Z, X was the
grantor or feoffor, Y became the new legal owner and the feoffee to
uses, and Z the beneficial or equitable owner under the use. Uses
(which evaded certain feudal principles) were abolished by the Statute
of Uses in 1535. -- MO'R