‘Do you know that the Bill attainting Richard III before Parliament didn’t mention the murder of the Princes in the Tower?’ Grant asked the surgeon next morning.
‘Really?’ said the surgeon. ‘That’s odd, isn’t it?’
‘Extremely odd. Can you think of an explanation?’
‘Probably trying to minimise the scandal. For the sake of the family.’
‘He wasn’t succeeded by one of his family. He was the last of his line. His successor was the first Tudor. Henry VII.’
‘Yes, of course. I’d forgotten. I was never any good at history. I used to use the history period to do my home algebra. They don’t manage to make history very interesting in schools. Perhaps more portraits might help.’ He glanced up at the Richard portrait and went back to his professional inspection. ‘That is looking very nice and healthy, I’m glad to say. No pain to speak of now?’
And he went away, kindly and casual. He was interested in faces because they were part of his trade, but history was just something that he used for other purposes; something that he set aside in favour of algebra under the desk. He had living bodies in his care, and the future in his hands; he had no thought to spare for problems academic.
Matron, too, had more immediate worries. She listened politely while he put his difficulty to her, but he had the impression that she might say: ‘I should see the almoner about it if I were you’. It was not her affair. She looked down from her regal eminence at the great hive below her buzzing with activity, all of it urgent and important; she could hardly be expected to focus her gaze on something more than four hundred years away.
He wanted to say: ‘But you of all people should be interested in what can happen to royalty; in the frailness of your reputation’s worth. Tomorrow a whisper may destroy you.’ But he was already guiltily conscious that to hinder a Matron with irrelevances was to lengthen her already lengthy morning round without reason or excuse.
The Midget did not know what an Attainder was, and made it clear that she did not care.
‘It’s becoming an obsession with you, that thing,’ she said, leaning her head at the portrait. ‘It’s not healthy. Why don’t you read some of those nice books?’
Even Marta, whose visit he had looked forward to so that he could put this odd, new proposition to her and see her reaction, even Marta was too full of wrath with Madeleine March to pay any attention to him.
‘After practically promising me that she would write it! After all our get-together and my plans for when this endless thing finally comes to an end. I had even talked to Jacques about clothes! And now she decides that she must write one of her awful little detective stories. She says she must write it while it is fresh — whatever that is.’
He listened to Marta’s grieving with sympathy — good plays were the scarcest commodity in the world and good playwrights worth their weight in platinum — but it was like watching something through a window. The fifteenth century was more actual to him this morning than any on-goings in Shaftesbury Avenue.
‘I don’t suppose it will take her long to write her detective book,’ he said comfortingly.
‘Oh, no. She does them in six weeks or so. But now that she’s off the chain how do I know that I’ll ever get her on again. Tony Savilla wants her to write a Marlborough play for him, and you know what Tony is when he sets his heart on something. He’d talk the pigeons off the Admiralty Arch.’
She came back to the Attainder problem, briefly, before she took her leave.
‘There’s sure to be some explanation, my dear,’ she said from the door.
Of course there’s an explanation, he wanted to shout after her, but what is it? The thing is against all likelihood and sense. Historians say that the murder caused a great revulsion of feeling against Richard, that he was hated for the crime by the common people of England, and that was why they welcomed a stranger in his place. And yet when the tale of his wrongdoing is placed before Parliament there is no mention of the crime.
Richard was dead when that complaint was drawn up, and his followers in flight or exile; his enemies were free to bring against him any charge they could think of. And they had not thought of that spectacular murder.
The country was reputedly ringing with the scandal of the boys’ disappearance. The very recent scandal. And when his enemies collected his alleged offences against morality and the State they had not included Richard’s most spectacular piece of infamy.
Henry needed every small featherweight of advantage in the precarious newness of his accession. He was unknown to the country at large and he had no right by blood to be where he was. But he hadn’t used the overwhelming advantage that Richard’s published crime would have given him.
He was succeeding a man of great reputation, known personally to the people from the Marches of Wales to the Scots border, a man universally liked and admired until the disappearance of his nephews. And yet he omitted to use the one real advantage he had against Richard, the unforgivable, the abhorred thing.
Only The Amazon seemed concerned about the oddity that was engaging his mind; and she not out of any feeling for Richard but because her conscientious soul was distressed at any possibility of mistake. The Amazon would go all the way down the corridor and back again to tear off a page in a loose-leaf calendar that someone had forgotten to remove. But her instinct to be worried was less strong than her instinct to comfort.
‘You don’t need to worry about it,’ she said, soothing. ‘There’ll be some quite simple explanation that you haven’t thought of. It’ll come to you sometime when you’re thinking of something else altogether. That’s usually how I remember where something I’ve mislaid is. I’ll be putting the kettle on in the pantry, or counting the sterile dressings as Sister doles them out, and suddenly I’ll think: “Goodness, I left it in my burberry pocket.” Whatever the thing was, I mean. So you don’t have to worry about it.’
Sergeant Williams was in the wilds of Essex helping the local constabulary to decide who had hit an old shopkeeper over the head with a brass scale-weight and left her dead among the shoelaces and liquorice all-sorts, so there was no help from the Yard.
There was no help from anyone until young Carradine turned up again three days later. Grant thought that his normal insouciance had a deeper tinge than usual; there was almost an air of self-congratulation about him. Being a well-brought-up child he inquired politely about Grant’s physical progress, and having been reassured on that point he pulled some notes out of the capacious pocket of his coat and beamed through his horn-rims at his colleague.
‘I wouldn’t have the sainted More as a present,’ he observed pleasantly.
‘You’re not being offered him. There are no takers.’
‘He’s away off the beam. Away off.’
‘I suspected as much. Let us have the facts. Can you begin on the day Edward died?’
‘Sure. Edward died on April the 9th 1483. In London. I mean, in Westminster; which wasn’t the same thing then. The Queen and the daughters were living there, and the younger boy, I think. The young Prince was doing lessons at Ludlow Castle in charge of the Queen’s brother, Lord Rivers. The Queen’s relations are very much to the fore, did you know? The place is just lousy with Woodvilles.’
‘Yes, I know. Go on. Where was Richard?’
‘On the Scottish border.’
‘Yes, I said: on the Scottish border. Caught away off base. But does he yell for a horse and go posting off to London? He does not.’
‘What did he do?’
‘He arranged for a requiem mass at York, to which all the nobility of the North were summoned, and in his presence took an oath of loyalty to the young Prince.’
‘Interesting,’ Grant said dryly. ‘What did Rivers do? The Queen’s brother?’
‘On the 24th of April he set out with the Prince for London. With two thousand men and a large supply of arms.’
‘What did he want the arms for?’
‘Don’t ask me. I’m only a Research Worker. Dorset, the elder of the Queen’s two sons by her first marriage, took over both the arsenal and the treasure in the Tower and began to fit up ships to command the Channel. And Council orders were issued in the name of Rivers and Dorset—“avunculus Regis” and “frater Regis uterinus” respectively — with no mention of Richard. Which was decidedly off-colour when you remember — if you ever knew — that in his will Edward had appointed Richard guardian of the boy and Protector of the Kingdom in case of any minority. Richard alone, mind you, without a colleague.’
‘Yes, that is in character, at least. He must always have had complete faith in Richard. Both as a person and as an administrator. Did Richard come south with a young army too?’
‘No. He came with six hundred gentlemen of the North, all in deep mourning. He arrived at Northampton on April the 29th. He had apparently expected to join up with the Ludlow crowd there; but that is report and you have only a historian’s word for it. But the Ludlow procession — Rivers and the young Prince — had gone on to Stoney Stratford without waiting for him. The person who actually met him at Northampton was the Duke of Buckingham with three hundred men. Do you know Buckingham?’
‘We have a nodding acquaintance. He was a friend of Edward’s.’
‘Yes. He arrived post haste from London.’
‘With the news of what was going on.’
‘It’s a fair deduction. He wouldn’t bring three hundred men just to express his condolences. Anyhow a Council was held there and then — he had all the material for a proper Council in his own train and Buckingham’s, and Rivers and his three aides were arrested and sent to the North, while Richard went on with the young Prince to London. They arrived in London on the 4th of May.’
‘Well, that is very nice and clear. And what is clearest of all is that, considering time and distances, the sainted More’s account of his writing sweet letters to the Queen to induce her to send only a small escort for the boy, is nonsense.’
‘Indeed, Richard did just what one would expect him to do. He must of course have known the provisions of Edward’s will. What his actions suggest is just what one would expect them to suggest; his own sorrow and his care for the boy. A requiem mass and an oath of allegiance.’
‘Where does the break in this orthodox pattern come? I mean: in Richard’s behaviour.’
‘Oh, not for a long time. When he arrived in London he found that the Queen, the younger boy, the daughters, and her first-marriage son, Dorset, had all bolted into sanctuary at Westminster. But apart from that things seem to have been normal.’
‘Did he take the boy to the Tower?’
Carradine riffled through his notes. ‘I don’t remember. Perhaps I didn’t get that. I was only — Oh, yes, here it is. No, he took the boy to the Bishop’s Palace in St Paul’s Churchyard, and he himself went to stay with his mother at Baynard’s Castle. Do you know where that was? I don’t.’
‘Yes. It was the Yorks’ town house. It stood on the bank of the river just a little way west of St Paul’s.’
‘Oh. Well, he stayed there until June the 5th, when his wife arrived from the North and they went to stay in a house called Crosby Place.’
‘It is still called Crosby Place. It has been moved to Chelsea, and the window Richard put into it may not still be there — I haven’t seen it lately — but the building is there.’
‘It is?’ Carradine said, delighted. ‘I’ll go and see it right away. It’s a very domestic tale when you think of it, isn’t it. Staying with his mother until his wife gets to town, and then moving in with her. Was Crosby Place theirs, then?’
‘Richard had leased it, I think. It belonged to one of the Aldermen of London. So there is no suggestion of opposition to his Protectorship, or of change of plans, when he arrived in London.’
‘Oh, no. He was acknowledged Protector before he ever arrived in London.’
‘How do you know that?’
‘In the Patent Rolls he is called Protector on two occasions — let me see — April 21st (that’s less than a fortnight after Edward’s death) and May the 2nd (that’s two days before he arrived in London at all.)’
‘All right; I’m sold. And no fuss? No hint of trouble?’
‘Not that I can find. On the 5th of June he gave detailed orders for the boy’s coronation on the 22nd. He even had letters of summons sent out to the forty squires who would be made knights of the Bath. It seems it was the custom for the King to knight them on the occasion of his coronation.’
‘The 5th,’ Grant said musingly. ‘And he fixed the coronation for the 22nd. He wasn’t leaving himself much time for a switch-over.’
‘No. There’s even a record of the order for the boy’s coronation clothes.’
‘And then what?’
‘Well,’ Carradine said, apologetic, ‘that’s as far as I’ve got. Something happened at a Council — on the 8th of June, I think — but the contemporary account is in the Mémoires of Philippe de Comines and I haven’t been able to get hold of a copy so far. But someone has promised to let me see a copy of Mandrot’s 1901 printing of it tomorrow. It seems that the Bishop of Bath broke some news to the Council on June the 8th. Do you know the Bishop of Bath? His name was Stillington.’
‘Never heard of him.’
‘He was a Fellow of All Souls, whatever that is, and a Canon of York, whatever that may be.’
‘Both learned and respectable, it appears.’
‘Well, we’ll see.’
‘Have you turned up any contemporary historians — other than Comines?’
‘Not any, so far, who wrote before Richard’s death. Comines has a French bias but not a Tudor one, so he’s more trustworthy than an Englishman writing about Richard under the Tudors would be. But I’ve got a lovely sample for you of how history is made. I found it when I was looking up the contemporary writers. You know that one of the things they tell about Richard III is that he killed Henry VI’s only son in cold blood after the battle of Tewkesbury? Well, believe it or not, that story is made up out of whole cloth. You can trace it from the very time it was first told. It’s the perfect answer to people who say there’s no smoke without fire. Believe me this smoke was made by rubbing two pieces of dry stick together.’
‘But Richard was just a boy at the time of Tewkesbury.’
‘He was eighteen, I think. And a very bonny fighter by all contemporary accounts. They were the same age, Henry’s son and Richard. Well, all the contemporary accounts, of whatever complexion, are unanimous in saying that he was killed during the battle. Then the fun begins.’
Carradine fluttered through his notes impatiently.
‘Goldarn it, what did I do with it? Ah. Here we are. Now. Fabyan, writing for Henry VII, says that the boy was captured and brought before Edward IV, was struck in the face by Edward with his gauntlet and immediately slain by the King’s servants. Nice? But Polydore Virgil goes one better. He says that the murder was done in person by George, Duke of Clarence, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and William, Lord Hastings. Hall adds Dorset to the murderers. But that didn’t satisfy Holinshed: Holinshed reports that it was Richard Duke of Gloucester who struck the first blow. How do you like that? Best quality Tonypandy, isn’t it.’
‘Pure Tonypandy. A dramatic story with not a word of truth in it. If you can bear to listen to a few sentences of the sainted More, I’ll give you another sample of how history is made.’
‘The sainted More makes me sick at the stomach but I’ll listen.’
Grant looked for the paragraph he wanted, and read:
Some wise men also ween that his drift [that is, Richard’s drift] covertly conveyed, lacked not in helping forth his brother Clarence to his death; which he resisted openly, howbeit somewhat, as men deemed, more faintly than he that were heartily minded to his weal. And they who deem thus think that he, long time in King Edward’s life, forethought to be King in case that the King his brother (whose life he looked that evil diet should shorten) should happen to decease (as indeed he did) while his children were young. And they deem that for this intent he was glad of his brother Clarence’s death, whose life must needs have hindered him so intending whether the same Clarence had kept true to his nephew the young King or enterprised to be King himself. But of all this point there is no certainty, and whoso divineth upon conjectures may as well shoot too far as too short.
‘The mean, burbling insinuating old dotard,’ said Carradine sweetly.
‘Were you clever enough to pick out the one positive statement in all that speculation?’
‘You spotted it? That was smart of you. I had to read it three times before I got the one unqualified fact.’
‘That Richard protested openly against his brother George being put to death.’
‘Of course, with all that “men say” stuff,’ Carradine observed, ‘the impression that is left is just the opposite. I told you, I wouldn’t have the sainted More as a present.’
‘I think we ought to remember that it is John Morton’s account and not the sainted More’s.’
‘The sainted More sounds better. Besides, he liked the thing well enough to be copying it out.’
Grant, the one-time soldier, lay thinking of the expert handling of that very sticky situation at Northampton.
‘It was neat of him to mop up Rivers’ two thousand without any open clash.’
‘I expect they preferred the King’s brother to the Queen’s brother, if they were faced with it.’
‘Yes. And of course a fighting man has a better chance with troops than a man who writes books.’
‘Did Rivers write books?’
‘He wrote the first book printed in England. Very cultured, he was.’
‘Huh. It doesn’t seem to have taught him not to try conclusions with a man who was a brigadier at eighteen and a general before he was twenty-five. That’s one thing that has surprised me, you know.’
‘Richard’s qualities as a soldier?’
‘No, his youth. I’d always thought of him as a middle-aged grouch. He was only thirty-two when he was killed at Bosworth.’
‘Tell me: when Richard took over the boy’s guardianship, at Stoney Stratford, did he make a clean sweep of the Ludlow crowd? I mean, was the boy separated from all the people he had been growing up with?’
‘Oh, no. His tutor, Dr Alcock, came on to London with him, for one.’
‘So there was no panic clearing-out of everyone who might be on the Woodville side; everyone who might influence the boy against him.’
‘Seems not. Just the four arrests.’
‘Yes. A very neat, discriminating operation altogether. I felicitate Richard Plantagenet.’
‘I’m positively beginning to like the guy. Well, I’m going along now to look at Crosby Place. I’m tickled pink at the thought of actually looking at a place he lived in. And tomorrow I’ll have that copy of Comines, and let you know what he says about events in England in 1483, and what Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath, told the Council in June of that year.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01