My Sovereign King

“My Sovereign King, Queen, and Princely Peers” (II.1)

Biographies of Principal Characters in Shakespeare’s Richard III sovereign_king

King Edward IV

Born in Rouen 1442, eldest son of Richard, third Duke of York, and Cecily Neville. Created Earl of March in 1459, in the following year he returned from Calais with the Yorkist Earls, Warwick and Salisbury, and assisted in the defeat of the forces of Henry VI at Northampton. The king fell into their hands and they governed in his name. After the death of his father at Wakefield, Edward gathered forces and defeated Queen Margaret at Mortimer’s Cross. In the same year, 1461, he was victorious at Towton and on his return to London was crowned king, upon which occasion he created his brothers George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester. A parliament, which met at the end of the year, declared Henry VI and all his adherents traitors. He secretly married the widow, Elizabeth Woodville, in 1464. Edward’s position was threatened by the intrigues of Warwick, who had been thwarted by the King’s rejection of a French marriage and was, with Clarence, plotting his overthrow. In 1469 he was captured at Edgecote by Warwick and Clarence and was committed to the custody of the Archbishop of York. He escaped, fought Warwick and Clarence and Queen Margaret in 1470, and took refuge in Flanders. In 1471 he returned to England, was reconciled to Clarence, took Henry VI prisoner, slew Warwick at Barnet and imprisoned Queen Margaret after Tewkesbury. He resumed his reign in 1471 and ruled in relative peace and stability until his death in 1483.

Edward's signature Edward’s signature.


Queen Elizabeth Woodville

Born 1431, the daughter of Sir Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg (the widow of John, Duke of Bedford). She married, first, about 1452, Sir John Grey, son and heir of Lord Ferrers, and became one of the four ladies of the bedchamber to Margaret of Anjou. Her husband was killed at the second battle of St. Albans, leaving her with two sons: Thomas, afterward Marquess of Dorset, and Richard. Since her father and husband had been partisans in the Lancastrian cause, she was deprived of her inheritance upon the accession of Edward IV. She came to Edward’s closer attention when he visited her mother’s manor house at Grafton and, although she was a commoner, they were married in 1464. She was crowned at Westminster in 1465 and the advancement of her relatives at once caused dissatisfaction among the old nobility. The royal couple had three sons and seven daughters, but this proved insufficient to guarantee the succession. On the death of Edward IV in 1483, Elizabeth took sanctuary in Westminster Abbey but was persuaded by Cardinal Bourchier to give up her son, Prince Richard, to join his elder brother in preparing for the Coronation. When her marriage to Edward was declared invalid, she came out of sanctuary and made her peace with Richard III. After the marriage of her daughter, Elizabeth, to Henry VII she was initially in full possession of her rights as Queen Dowager but in 1487 her lands were declared forfeit because of her “perfidy” in having delivered her daughters from sanctuary into Richard’s wardship. She returned to the Abbey of Bermondsey, where she died in 1492.

Elizabeth Woodville's SignatureHer signature


George, Duke of Clarence

The sixth son (the third surviving infancy) of Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville, he was born in Dublin in 1449 during his father’s residence there as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. After the execution of their father in 1460, George and his younger brother, Richard, were sent to Utrecht for their own safety. Following the accession of his brother to the throne as Edward IV in 1461, he returned to England and was created Duke of Clarence. In 1469 he married, in Calais, Isabel, the elder daughter of the Earl of Warwick, against the king’s wishes. He joined his father-in-law in an invasion of England and they defeated Edward IV at the battle of Edgecote. Following the release of Edward IV from their custody, they fled to France. In 1470 he and Warwick returned to England with an army and restored Henry VI to the throne and it was Edward’s turn to flee. Clarence’s disapproval of the Lancastrian restoration soon led him to seek reconciliation, in secret, with his brother. When Edward landed in England in 1471, he deserted to him and fought on his side in the conclusive battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, which ended Lancastrian aspirations. He became embroiled with his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who had married Warwick’s younger daughter and wished to share in her father’s inheritance. The dispute was resolved by a parliamentary partition of Warwick’s estates between Clarence and Gloucester in 1474. With the death of his wife in 1476, Clarence again was seeking a suitable marriage alliance but enmity between brothers re-arose when Edward blocked a match with Mary of Burgundy, heiress of Charles the Bold. Clarence’s subsequent treasonable behaviour led to his execution in 1478. He was survived by a son, Edward, Earl of Warwick, and a daughter, Margaret, Countess of Salisbury.

George of Clarence SignatureClarence’s signature


Cecily Neville, Duchess of York

Daughter of Ralph Neville, first Earl of Westmoreland, by his second wife, Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt. In 1438 she married Richard, Duke of York, who was descended from Lionel, Duke of Clarence, brother of John of Gaunt. The marriage produced seven sons and five daughters, the progeny including two Kings of England, Edward IV and Richard III, and, through the former, Edward V, grandson, and Henry VIII, great-grandson. The Duchess of York had a throne room in Fotheringhay Castle, her baronial residence, where she held receptions with the style of a queen, a title that she had once had hopes of enjoying, her husband having been declared heir to Henry VI. She outlived her murdered Duke, her sons, including Edward IV, Rutland, and Richard III, and all her daughters, except Margaret Duchess of Burgundy. At the time of the deposition of Edward IV, she had not yet reached the age of 80 that she ascribes to herself in Shakespeare’s play. She died in 1495 at Berkhamsted, having seen the coronation of her granddaughter, Elizabeth of York, as Queen Consort, in 1487, and was buried beside her husband at Fotheringhay.

Cecily Neville Duchess of York SignatureThe Duchess’ signature


Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers

Born 1442, the eldest son of Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers. Edward IV showed him preferment in allowing him to marry Elizabeth, the heiress of Lord Scales. A most accomplished soldier and learned man, he was a continuous patron of Caxton and translated for him the first dated book printed in England. He had fought on the Lancastrian side at Towton but after the battle transferred his allegiance to the victorious Yorkist king and was confirmed in his father-in-law’s title of Lord Scales in 1462. Following the marriage of his sister, Elizabeth, to the king, his advance was very rapid. He was a member of the embassy which arranged the match between the Duke of Burgundy and Edward’s sister, Margaret, in 1467, and in the net year he accompanied the bride to Bruges, where he took part in a brilliant tournament. He escaped the fate of his father and brother at Edgecote in 1469 and succeeded as the second Earl Rivers. He shared Edward’s exile in Holland, returned with him in 1471, helped to secure the victory at Barnet and beat off the Bastard of Fauconberg’s attack on London. In 1473 he became the guardian of the young Prince of Wales and Chief Butler of England. He went on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1475, where he was invested by Pope Sixtus IV with the title of Defender and Director of Papal Causes in England. During his absence his wife had died, so a marriage was sought with Margaret, daughter of James III of Scotland. When Edward IV died in 1483, Rivers, Grey and the Prince of Wales set out for London. After reaching Stony Stratford they met Gloucester and Buckingham, who had Rivers and Grey arrested and later executed at Pontefract.

Lady Anne Neville

Born in 1456, the younger of the two daughters of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. During the early part of her life her fortunes were linked to those of her father such that when he was in France in the late 1460s, plotting against Edward IV, she was at the court of Louis XI with her sister Isabel (now married to Clarence). While at Angers in 1470, she became betrothed to Edward of Lancaster, Prince of Wales, the son of Henry VI. She was with her father in England during his attempt to restore Henry VI to the throne but Warwick died at the battle of Barnet in 1471 and Henry shortly afterwards. However, the presence of “Lady Anne” as the chief mourner in the funeral procession of Henry VI in Shakespeare’s play represents dramatic license because she was in hiding at the time. Clarence had placed her out of the reach of Richard of Gloucester, who wished to marry her, but Clarence was attempting to prevent his brother from acquiring a share in Warwick’s inheritance. Eventually she was freed and she and Richard were married in 1474. They resided in Middleham Castle during Richard’s term as Lord of the North and Edward, their only son, was born there in 1475/76. Following Richard’ accession in 1483, she was crowned in Westminster Abbey at his side. She died in 1485, in the year following the death of Prince Edward, her only son.

John Howard, Duke of Norfolk

The first Howard Duke of Norfolk, he was the son of Sir Robert Howard by Margaret, daughter of Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. For his services to the Yorkist cause, he was knighted by Edward IV in 1461 and appointed Constable of Colchester Castle. He served against the Lancastrians and continued to rise in the King’s favour. In 1471 he was appointed Deputy Governor at Calais and was employed several times in negotiations with the King of France. After the death of Edward, he supported Richard, Duke of Gloucester, upon whose accession he was created Duke of Norfolk and hereditary Earl Marshal of England. He is said to be among those who persuaded Elizabeth Woodville to release Richard, Duke of York, from sanctuary. When the Earl of Richmond landed in 1485, Norfolk summoned his retainers to meet him at Bury St. Edmund to fight for Richard. Shakespeare makes use of Edward Hall’s report that, before the battle, one of his followers tried to persuade him to remain inactive, with the warning message pinned to his tend: ‘Jacke of Norfolke be not too bolde, for Dykon thy maister, is bought and solde.’ He nevertheless commanded the vanguard of Richard’s army at Bosworth. He died early on in the battle and afterwards was attainted by Henry VII.


His signature: “J Norffolke”


Sir James Tyrrel

The eldest son of William Tyrrel of Gipping, Suffolk, who claimed descent from Walter Tyrrel, the reputed slayer of William Rufus, Sir James was a strong Yorkist who, after the battle of Tewkesbury, was knighted for his services by Edward IV. He served as member of parliament for Cornwall in 1477. According to tradition, he arranged the murder of the sons of Edward IV. In 1485 he was sent by Richard as lieutenant to the castle of Guisnes in France. After Bosworth he continued to be employed in this capacity by Henry VII, receiving a general pardon from him in 1486. He was implicated in the escape of the Duke of Suffolk, arrested after being tricked under a supposed amnesty and was beheaded on Tower Hill in 1502, being interred in the church of the Augustine friars.

James Tyrell Signature His signature: “Jamys Tyrell’


Sir William Catesby

Son of Sir William Catesby of Ashby St. Legers, Northants. By training a lawyer, in the 1470s he became estate agent or councillor of several lords, including the Duke of Buckingham and William, Lord Hastings. A councillor of Edward IV by the end of his reign, he transferred successfully to Richard III, possibly betraying Hastings. He received many favours and a knighthood from the King, succeeded Hastings as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1483 and the next year was chosen Speaker in Richard’s only parliament. He is held up to opprobrium, together with Ratcliffe and Lovell in the well-known satirical rhyme by Collingbourne. Catesby was taken prisoner at Bosworth and beheaded three days afterward at Leicester. His will names his “dear and beloved wife” Margaret, daughter of Lord Zouche, “to whom I have be trew of my body” sole executrix and asks her to remain unmarried.

Francis, Lord Lovell

Born 1454, the son of John Lovell, eighth Baron Lovell of Tichmarsh, Northamptonshire. He was knighted by the Duke of Gloucester in 1480 for his military services on an expedition against the Scots. After the death of Edward IV, Lovell was a strong supporter of the claims of Richard and was created Viscount Lovell in 1483, as well as Chamberlain and Chief Butler of England. He was commissioned to levy troops against Buckingham and in 1485 was sent to Southampton to fit out a fleet against Richmond, but failed to prevent him from landing at Milford Haven. He was present with Richard III at Bosworth but eluded Henry Tudor after the battle. He returned from Flanders to fight against Henry at East Stoke in 1487, but is not heard of after the battle. According to tradition, he escaped to a secret chamber in his manor house of Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire, where a skeleton, supposed to be his, was discovered in 1708. It was seated before a table on which were a book, papers and pen. All crumbled to dust soon after air was admitted.

Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey

Born in 1443, only son of John, Duke of Norfolk. He began his career at the court of Edward IV, taking refuge in Colchester in 1470 when the monarch was driven out of the country by the Earl of Warwick. On Edward’s return in 1470, Thomas Howard fought by his side at the Battle of Barnet. He married Agnes, daughter and Heiress of Sir Philip Tilney and the widow of Humphrey, Lord Berners. He was knighted in 1478 and, in 1483, was created Earl of Surrey when his father was elevated to the Dukedom of Norfolk. He took his place at Court, acquiescing in Richard’s assumption of the throne. At Bosworth he held a command in Richard’s army. He was captured after the battle, attained and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Restored as Earl of Surrey four years later, he served on commissions for Henry VII, including being sent to Scotland in 1501 to arrange the terms of peace with James IV and to negotiate the marriage treaty between that monarch and Henry’s daughter, Margaret. During the reign of Henry VII finally he received his father’s title of Duke of Norfolk.

thomas howard Surrey’s signature


Sir Richard Ratcliffe

A son of Sir Thomas Ratcliffe of Derwentwater. He was knighted by Edward IV on the field of Tewkesbury and made a banneret by Richard Gloucester during his Scottish campaign in 1482. The following year Richard sent him to Yorkshire to bring men to his support during the protectorship and he is said to have executed Rivers, Grey and Hastings on Richard’s orders. Under Richard III he gained considerable position and wealth, being one of his chief advisers, though with Catesby he did not hesitate to tell the King he must publicly disavow the idea of marrying his niece, Elizabeth of York. With his brothers, he fought for Richard at Bosworth, where he was killed and attainted. His wife, Agnes, daughter of Henry, Lord Scrope of Bolton, afterwards took a vow of celibacy.

Sir Robert Brackenbury

Descended from one of the companions of the Conqueror, Sir Robert was the second son of Thomas Brackenbury of Denton, County Durham, in the neighborhood of Barnard Castle. A tower in the castle ruins there still bears the family name. He received large grants from Richard III for his aid during Buckingham’s rebellion and in 1483 was appointed Master of the Monies and Constable of the Tower, as well as being knighted by the King. Thomas More relates the tale of his refusal to obey Richard’s orders to dispose of the Princes, handing over the keys of the Tower for one night to the less scrupulous Tyrell; yet Brackenbury adhered faithfully to Richard, rode with him to the Battle of Bosworth, where the ‘Chronicle of Calais’ calls him ‘gentle Brackenbury’ and he died in the battle fighting loyally for the King.

Edward, Prince of Wales and Richard, Duke of York

The only sons of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville to survive infancy, Edward was born in sanctuary in Westminster Abbey in 1470, after his father had been driven out of the kingdom, and Richard at Shrewsbury in 1473. They were created, respectively, Prince of Wales in 1472, and Duke of York in 1473. The Prince of Wales was entrusted by his father to a board of control, the chief members of which were his uncles Clarence, Gloucester and Rivers. He spent most of his life under the tutelage of Rivers at Ludlow, whence he was summoned to London upon the death of Edward IV in April 1483. Accompanied by Earl Rivers and Sir Richard Grey (respectively brother and son of the Queen) the new King Edward V was intercepted by the Dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham at Stony Stratford and the two Woodvilles were arrested. The royal party, with its new escort, entered the capital and the Duke of York, unlike his brother a resident of London, was induced to come out of sanctuary in order to participate in Edward’s coronation — although this was not to occur. The short reign of Edward V was marked by a struggle for power between the Woodville family and the Duke of Gloucester who had been appointed Lord Protector during the King’s minority. Within two months of Edward’s entry into London both boys became debarred from the throne on the grounds of illegitimacy, upon the revelation that their father had entered into a pre-contract of marriage with Lady Eleanor Butler years before his secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. This state of affairs allowed Gloucester to ascend to the throne as Richard III in July 1483, whereafter the two ex-princes fell into obscurity and their ultimate fate remains unknown.

Edward V Signature Edward’s signature

Queen Margaret

Born 1430, the daughter of King Rene of Anjou. In 1445 she married King Henry VI at Nancy, later to be crowned in Westminster Abbey. In identifying her husband with one particular baronial faction in England, she had the effect of forcing the rival party into opposition. Her personal popularity suffered as the result of losses of English possessions in France as she favoured the Duke of Somerset who was responsible for the military disasters. In 1453 Henry VI became insane and Somerset’s rival, Richard, Duke of York, was appointed Protector. During the period until the restoration of Henry’s sanity in 1455 the rivalry between York and the Queen’s party intensified and was cemented by the birth of Edward of Lancaster, the Lancastrian heir. Henry VI dismissed York and reinstated Somerset and in self-defence York rebelled, defeating the royalist forces at the first battle of St. Albans. York again became Protector and, following a further victory over the royalist forces at Northampton in 1460, was named Henry’s heir. In the same year, however, York was killed at the battle of Wakefield and his claim passed to his eldest son, Edward, Earl of March. With the aid of the Earl of Warwick, Edward deposed Henry and became king. Queen Margaret continued to attempt to overthrow Edward and was partly successful in 1470, with the aid of Clarence and the disaffected Warwick. Following the deaths of both her husband and only son in 1471, Margaret was taken prisoner and remained in confinement for the next five years. Released by the Treaty of Picquigny in 1475, she was conveyed to France, pensioned by Louis XI, but compelled to surrender all her rights of succession to her father’s French possessions. Louis soon ceased to pay her pension and she died in great poverty in Anjou in 1482, being buried in Angiers cathedral. Her appearance in Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’, therefore, is an anachronism.

Margaret of Anjou Signature Margaret’s signature


King Henry VI

The son of Henry V and Katherine of Valois, Henry succeeded to the throne of England in 1422 at the age of nine months. In the same year he was proclaimed also King of France, Charles VI having died. The Regency that occupied the early years of his reign and his periods of insanity in its latter part were marked by struggles for power among the nobility. In the turmoil most of the French dominions of the Crown were lost and the claims of the House of York to the throne came to the fore. The Duke of York was appointed Protector during the insanity of Henry in 1453 but had only begun to restore ordered government when Henry recovered his reason and recommenced his reign in 1455, by which time there was an heir to the House of Lancaster. The King’s forces were defeated by the Yorkists at the first battle of St. Albans in 1455. His grasp of the throne was shaky thereafter, with outbreaks of civil war. Following York’s defeat and death in 1460 the Yorkist claim passed to Edward IV. Henry VI was imprisoned in the Tower of London but was temporarily restored to the throne by Warwick in 1470. Shortly after the final Yorkist victory at Tewkesbury in 1471, Henry died in the Tower. His body was exposed to view in St. Paul’s and afterwards buried at Chertsey. From there it was removed to St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, in the reign of Henry VII, who promoted his case for canonisation.

Henry VI Signature Henry’s signature


William, Lord Hastings, Lord Chamberlain

Born about 1430, the son of Sir Leonard Hastings and Alice, daughter of Lord Camoys. A devoted Yorkist, he was highly esteemed by Richard, Duke of York, who recommended him to his son, Edward. After his accession in 1461, Edward IV created him Lord Hastings of Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire. He also became Master of the Mint, where he introduced the coinage of gold nobles, and Chamberlain of the Royal Household. In being appointed Captain of Calais, he aroused the enmity of the Queen, who had desired this post for her brother, Earl Rivers. Upon Warwick’s invasion in 1470, Hastings warned Edward IV of his danger and accompanied him to King’s Lynn, whence the King escaped to Holland; Hastings remained in England to stir up the zeal of the Yorkists and he was also instrumental in winning over Clarence to Edward’s side, while he himself commanded a division at the battle of Barnet. On his deathbed, Edward is said to have entreated Hastings to be reconciled to the Queen. When she proposed that her young son, Edward V, should be escorted to London by a large army, Hastings vehemently opposed the suggestion and passionately demanded to know whether the army was intended “against the people of England or against the good Duke of Gloucester.” He was firmly attached to the children of his late sovereign and declined to support Richard in assuming the throne. At a meeting of the Council in the Tower in 1483, without warning, he was accused of treason by Gloucester and was summarily executed.


Lord Hastings’ signature


Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham

He was the son of Humphrey Stafford, who was killed at the first battle of St. Albans in 1455. He became Duke of Buckingham in 1460 following the death of his grandfather, the first Duke, at the battle of Northampton. Still a minor, he was under the protection of Anne, Duchess of Exeter, sister of Edward IV, and was knighted at the coronation of Elizabeth Woodville in 1465. As Lord High Steward of England, he pronounced the death sentence upon Clarence in 1478. Although he was married to Catherine Woodville, the Queen’s sister, he was almost as much distrusted by the Queen’s party as was the Duke of Gloucester himself. It was with the help of Buckingham that the Protector arrested Rivers and Grey and gained possession of the king’s person and with his aid that Richard was raised to the throne. Richard granted him the offices of Constable of England and Chamberlain of North and South Wales and restored to him the Bohun estates that had been kept from him by Edward IV. Despite this, he was soon in open rebellion, possibly having his own designs upon the crown. The rising failed, his army dispersed, and he was captured and beheaded at Salisbury in 1483.

Henry Stafford signature

His signature “Harre Bokyngham”


Thomas, Lord Stanley

Sir Thomas Stanley, Lord Stanley, was born about 1435. He married, first, Eleanor Neville, sister of the Earl of Warwick, and fought for Henry VI at the battle of Northampton but Edward IV forgave him and made him Chief Justice of Chester and Flint. After Warwick’s invasion in 1470, Stanley took his part and besieged Hornby Castle on behalf of the Lancastrians but was pardoned by Edward after the defeat of Warwick and made Steward of the Royal Household. As his second wife, he married the widow, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond (the mother of Henry Tudor). Following Edward’s death, he was imprisoned for a short time but was released and acquiesced to Richard’s assumption of the throne, bearing the mace at his coronation. He narrowly escaped complicity in Buckingham’s abortive rebellion and undertook to put a stop to his wife’s intrigues involving her aspirations for her son. Before Bosworth, he and his brother, Sir William Stanley, were summoned by Richard III to join him against the invader. Although accompanied by a large army, Thomas Stanley did not participate in the battle, but his brother turned traitor and his troops served Tudor in attacking Richard, turning the tide of battle. Lord Stanley was created Earl of Derby by Henry VII in 1485 as a reward for not fighting against him. He died in 1504.


John Morton, Bishop of Ely

The eldest son of Richard Morton of Milborn St. Andrew, Dorset, John Morton was born about 1420. He was educated at Cerne Abbey and received his Doctorate at Oxford. After ordination he practised as an ecclesiastical lawyer in the Court of Arches. He was a protege of Cardinal Bourchier and a supporter of Henry VI. When the Lancastrians were defeated at Towton, he went into exile with Queen Margaret and became attainted, with all his property confiscated. He played a great part in the reconciliation of Clarence and Warwick with Margaret but after the final defeat of the Lancastrian cause he submitted to Edward IV and his attainder was reversed. Edward sent him on embassies abroad and he helped to negotiate the Treaty of Picquigny in 1475, by the terms of which Edward withdrew his large army from the Kingdom of France in return for a ransom. Upon the death of Edward, he was arrested and placed in the custody of the Duke of Buckingham at Brecknock Castle. He is said to have inspired Buckingham’s rebellion, after which he fled abroad. When Henry VII gained the throne he summoned Morton to England and, in 1486, he succeeded Bourchier as Archbishop of Canterbury, becoming Lord Chancellor the following year. In 1493 he was appointed a Cardinal by Pope Alexander VI. He died in 1500.

Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset

Born in 1451, the elder son of Sir John Grey by Elizabeth Woodville, afterwards Queen of Edward IV. He succeeded his father as Lord Ferrers in 1461. He fought for Edward at Tewkesbury in 1471, becoming Marquess of Dorset in 1475. On the death of Edward in 1483 he took sanctuary but later took up arms in Yorkshire and a reward was offered for his capture. He participated in Buckingham’s rising and, when it failed, joined the Earl of Richmond in Brittany. He took no part in the latter’s invasion of England, but after Bosworth he was recalled to England and all his honours were restored. In 1487, during the Lambert Simnel insurrection, he fell under suspicion and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. After the battle of Stoke in the same year he was released. In 1492 he took part in the expedition to assist the Emperor Maximilian against the French. In 1497 he held a command in the royal forces sent to suppress the Cornish rebellion. He died in 1501 and was buried in the Collegiate Church of Astley, Warwickshire.

Henry, Earl of Richmond, Afterwards Henry VII

The son of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, by Margaret Beaufort, heiress of John of Gaunt, he was born at Pembroke Castle in 1457. He was brought up in Wales by his uncle, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke. Following the restoration of Henry VI in 1470 his uncle took him to London to meet the King, his kinsman through Katherine of Valois. Upon the recovery of the throne by Edward IV, he accompanied Pembroke to Brittany. After the death of Henry VI and his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, Henry of Richmond appears to have assumed the leadership of residual Lancastrian sympathisers, especially when the sons of Edward IV were set aside. He landed at Milford Haven in 1485, with a force of Bretons and Frenchmen, although he attracted Welsh adherents on the way. He was victorious at the battle of Bosworth as the result of the treachery of the Stanleys and the Earl of Northumberland and he legitimised his title to the throne by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, in 1486. Much of his reign, too, was marked by uprisings against his government. He died in 1509.

Henry VII signature

Henry VII


Sir Edmund Shaa, Lord Mayor of London

Son of John Shaa of Dukinfield in Cheshire, he was a wealthy goldsmith and prominent member of the Goldsmith’s Company. In 1473-74 he was involved in a dispute with John Lambarde (father of ‘Jane’ Shore) who had walked off with the fittings of a house he rented from the Company, some of which he had sold to Shaa. He and his brother, Ralph, were strong supporters of the House of York and it was Ralph who preached the sermon from Paul’s Cross in 1483 in which it was revealed publicly that the sons of Edward IV were illegitimate. As Mayor, Sir Edmund attended the coronation of Richard III, serving the King and Queen with wine and receiving the cups and ewers used as his fee. In December 1483 he bought over &#pound;500 worth of plate from Richard III and sold him New Year’s gifts worth 200 marks. He was allowed to bring in metals and jewels free of customs and in 1485 bought the lands of the traitor William Brandon. He continued these activities under Henry VII and had the friendship of Sir Reginald Bray. He died in 1488, leaving a widow, Juliana, having established a Free Grammar School at Stockport, where his parents were buried.

Lord Grey

Sir Richard Grey was the younger son of Elizabeth Woodville by her first marriage to Sir John Grey. He was the brother of Dorset and half brother of the young Prince of Wales and Duke of York. After the death of his stepfather, Edward IV, he and his uncle, Earl Rivers, had charge of the young King at Ludlow. While conducting Edward IV towards London for his coronation, on their arrival at Northampton, Earl Rivers sent forward the King under the care of Sir Richard Grey, but they were overtaken at Stony Stratford by Gloucester, the Protector. He charged them with having estranged from him his nephew’s affection and they were imprisoned in Pontefract Castle. He was executed in 1483.

Sir James Blunt

A retainer of William, Lord Hastings, Sir James was the third son of Sir Walter Blunt, first Baron Mountjoy. He was with Edward IV on his French Expedition of 1475 and the following year was lieutenant of Hammes Castle in Picardy, where he joined the Governor, the Earl of Oxford, in offering the castle to Henry Earl of Richmond in 1484. With Henry he landed at Milford Haven in 1485, was knighted there and fought against Richard III at Bosworth. The new King, Henry VII, made him a knight-banneret after the battle of Stoke in 1487, and on the attainder of William Catesby, gave him the manor of Ashby St. Legers. He died in 1493 and was survived by his wife, Elizabeth.

Sir Walter Herbert

Sir Walter was the second son of Sir William Herbert, created Earl of Pembroke in 1468. He married Anne Stafford, second daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, who, after Herbert’s death, married George Hastings, first Earl of Huntingdon. According to Thomas More, Herbert was a person with great influence among the Welsh. Henry, Earl of Richmond, intended to marry Maud, one of Herbert’s daughters, to whom he had become attached during the time he was resident in her father’s castle. She ultimately married Henry Percy, fourth Earl of Northumberland. For a time Richmond was so convinced of Richard III’s determination to marry Elizabeth of York, that he once more turned to a daughter of his early friend, the Lady Katherine Herbert, who afterwards married George Grey, Earl of Kent. Sir Walter died in 1507.

Earl of Oxford

John de Vere of Castle Hedingham, Essex, born in 1443, was the son of John de Vere, twelfth Earl of Oxford. His father and elder brother were executed in 1462 but he obtained the reversal of his father’s attainder in 1464 and became the thirteenth Earl. In 1468 he was arrested on suspicion of conspiring with the Lancastrians and upon his release in the following year he fled to France. He returned with Warwick and helped to restore Henry VI in 1470. A brilliant soldier, he led the van of the Lancastrian army at Barnet, routing Lord Hastings. However, his men fell to plundering and he was unable to come to Warwick’s aid. He escaped in France again after the battle but in 1473 he attacked St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, being defeated and imprisoned. On Richard’s accession he broke from captivity, joined Henry Tudor and landed with him in England in 1485. He commanded the right wing of the invader’s army at Bosworth and is said to have been instrumental in Lord Stanley’s treasonable failure to support Richard in that battle. Henry VII reversed his attainder and created him Lord Chamberlain of England and Constable of the Tower. He commanded in Picardy in 1492, cut off the retreat of the Cornish rebels at Blackheath in 1497, and was High Steward for the trial of the Earl of Warwick, Clarence’s son, in 1499. He died in 1513. His first wife was Margaret Neville, daughter of the Earl of Salisbury, and their only son, John, having died a prisoner in the Tower during his father’s exile, he was succeeded by his nephew.

john de vere

His signature


Illustrations Accompanying the Biographies

Edward IV: Seal and signature, full-length figure, posthumous panel painting on Oliver King Chantry Chapel, St. George’s Chapel, Windsor   Queen Elizabeth Woodville: Seal and signature, full-length ms. illustration showing her in Coronation robes from the records of the London Company of Skinners.   George, Duke of Clarence: Seal and Signature, full-length figure from the Rous Roll (Latin version), College of Arms.   Cecily Neville: Seal and signature, miniature of the Neville family at prayer with Cecily behind her mother, the Countess of Westmoreland. (Bibliothéque Nationale).   Anthony Woodville, Lord Rivers: Motto and signature. Detail of Lambeth Palace ms. miniature showing him kneeling before Edward IV and family.   Queen Anne Neville: Full length figure from the Rous Roll (English version), British Library.   John Howard, Duke of Norfolk: Signature. Portraits from Arundel Castle and the Royal Collection, Windsor.   William Catesby: Detail of his figure on the memorial brass at Ashby St. Legers, Northants.   Francis, Viscount Lovell: Signature. Garter stall plate, St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Ruins of Minster Lovell Manor House, Oxfordshire.   Thomas, Earl of Surrey: Signature. Engraving of his lost brass once at Lambeth.   James Tyrell: Signature. Exteriors of his family chapel at Gipping Suffolk with heraldic shields and badges.   Edward V: Signature. Figure, as Prince of Wales, from the ‘Dictes des Philosophes’ Ms. Lambeth Palace Library. Full length figure, posthumous representation, Bishop Oliver King Chapel, St. George’s Windsor.   Richard, Duke of York: Garter stall plant from St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.   Queen Margaret of Anjou: Signature, portrait medallion dated 1463 by Pietro de Milano (Victoria & Albert Museum). Drawing of her in stained glass once at Angers, her burial place.   King Henry VI: Signature. Figure as a saint from the screen at Barton Turf Norfolk. Miniature from fifteenth century psalter showing him enthroned during his brief restoration in 1470-71.   William, Lord Hastings: Seal and signature. Garter stall plate from St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.   Henry, Duke of Buckingham: Motto and signature. Engraving of attributed portrait. Garter stall plate St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.   Thomas, Lord Stanley: Signature. Garter stall plate, St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.   John Morton, Bishop of Ely: Tomb and effigy in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.   Henry Tudor: Signature. Drawing as a young man from the Recueil D’Arras.   Thomas Grey, Marquess Dorset: Effigy of his second wife, Cecily Bonville, Astley Church, Warwickshire.   John de Vere, Earl of Oxford: Seal and signature. Drawing of his effigy destroyed in 1730.