She had been shut away from the world; that indestructibly virtuous beauty with the gilt hair.
Why gilt, he wondered for the first time. Silver-gilt probably; she had been radiantly fair. A pity that the word blonde had degenerated to the point where it had almost a secondary meaning.
She had been walled up to end her days where she could be no trouble to anyone. An eddy of trouble had moved with her all through her life. Her marriage to Edward had rocked England. She had been the passive means of Warwick’s ruin. Her kindnesses to her family had built a whole new party in England and had prevented Richard’s peaceful succession. Bosworth was implicit in that scanty little ceremony in the wilds of Northamptonshire when she became Edward’s wife. But no one seemed to have borne her malice. Even the sinned-against Richard had forgiven her her relations’ enormities. No one — until Henry came.
She had disappeared into obscurity. Elizabeth Woodville. The Queen Dowager who was mother of the Queen of England. The mother of the Princes in the Tower; who had lived free and prosperous under Richard III.
That was an ugly break in the pattern, wasn’t it?
He took his mind away from personal histories and began to think police-fashion. It was time he tidied up his case. Put it shipshape for presenting. It would help the boy with his book, and better still it would clear his own mind. It would be down in black and white where he could see it.
He reached for his writing-pad and pen, and made a neat entry:
CASE: Disappearance of two boys (Edward, Prince of Wales; Richard, Duke of York) from the Tower of London, 1485 or thereabouts.
He wondered whether it would be better to do the two suspects in parallel columns or successively. Perhaps it was better to finish with Richard first. So he made another neat headline; and began on his summing-up:
Good. Has excellent record in public service, and good reputation in private life. Salient characteristic as indicated by his actions: good sense.
In the matter of the presumed crime:
(a) He did not stand to benefit; there were nine other heirs to the house of York, including three males.
(b) There is no contemporary accusation.
(c) The boys’ mother continued on friendly terms with him until his death, and her daughters attended Palace festivities.
(d) He showed no fear of the other heirs of York, providing generously for their upkeep and granting all of them their royal state.
(e) His own right to the crown was unassailable, approved by Act of Parliament and public acclamation; the boys were out of the succession and of no danger to him.
(f) If he had been nervous about disaffection then the person to have got rid of was not the two boys, but the person who really was next in succession to him: young Warwick. Whom he publicly created his heir when his own son died.
An adventurer, living at foreign courts. Son of an ambitious mother. Nothing known against his private life. No public office or employment. Salient characteristic as indicated by his actions: subtlety.
In the matter of the presumed crime:
(a) It was of great importance to him that the boys should not continue to live. By repealing the Act acknowledging the children’s illegitimacy, he made the elder boy King of England, and the younger boy the next heir.
(b) In the Act which he brought before Parliament for the attainting of Richard he accused Richard of the conventional tyranny and cruelty but made no mention of the two young Princes. The conclusion is inevitable that at that time the two boys were alive and their whereabouts known.
(c) The boys’ mother was deprived of her living and consigned to a nunnery eighteen months after his succession.
(d) He took immediate steps to secure the persons of all the other heirs to the crown, and kept them in close arrest until he could with the minimum of scandal get rid of them.
(e) He had no right whatever to the throne. Since the death of Richard, young Warwick was de jure King of England.
It occurred to Grant for the first time, as he wrote it out, that it had been within Richard’s power to legitimise his bastard son John, and foist him on the nation. There was no lack of precedent for such a course. After all, the whole Beaufort clan (including Henry’s mother) were the descendants not only of an illegitimate union but of a double adultery. There was nothing to hinder Richard from legitimising that ‘active and well-disposed’ boy who lived in recognised state in his household. It was surely the measure of Richard that no such course had apparently crossed his mind. He had appointed as his heir his brother’s boy. Even in the destitution of his own grief, good sense was his ruling characteristic. Good sense and family feeling. No base-born son, however active and well-disposed, was going to sit in the Plantagenets’ seat while his brother’s son was there to occupy it.
It was remarkable how that atmosphere of family feeling permeated the whole story. All the way from Cicely’s journeyings about in her husband’s company, to her son’s free acknowledgement of his brother George’s boy as his heir.
And it occurred to him too for the first time in full force just how that family atmosphere strengthened the case for Richard’s innocence. The boys whom he was supposed to have put down as he would put down twin foals were Edward’s sons; children he must have known personally and well. To Henry, on the other hand, they were mere symbols. Obstacles on a path. He may never even have set eyes on them. All questions of character apart, the choice between the two men as suspects might almost be decided on that alone.
It was wonderfully clearing to the head to see it neat and tidy as (a), (b), and (c). He had not noticed before how doubly suspect was Henry’s behaviour over Titulus Regius. If, as Henry had insisted, Richard’s claim was absurd, then surely the obvious thing to do was to have the thing re-read in public and demonstrate its falsity. But he did no such thing. He went to endless pains to obliterate even the memory of it. The conclusion was inevitable that Richard’s title to the crown as shown in Titulus Regius was unassailable.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01