Bastards of Richard III

Royal Bastardy in Mediaeval England: Part Two
In the last issue of the Bulletin we dealt with the bastards of all fifteenth century kings except Richard III — an omission to be remedied in this issue.

The illegitimate children of Richard of Gloucester are in fact the best documented royal bastards of the fifteenth century. This is due to sheer chance; it is certainly not because he had many more than other kings, only two are documented, with a possible third, but because official records of their existence have survived. It is unlikely that Richard had more the three, much less the total of seven mentioned (without reference) by Given-Wilson and Curteis (p. 160 in The Royal Bastards of England, referred to in the last issue).

The first of the three is John of Gloucester (or John of Pomfret), probably the best known. John was appointed Captain of Calais by his father (‘as our dear bastard son’) in March 1485, although he may have acted as such from at least November 1484 since we know he was in Calais at that time. He survived his father and was given a grant of £20 per annum by Henry VII in 1486. His favour with Henry did not last long though, and he was probably the ‘base sone’ of Richard said by Buck to have been executed by Henry in 1491. We know nothing more about John, although we may surmise that he was less than 21 in 1485 since in his patent as Captain of Calais certain powers were reserved to the king until John reached that age.

The second certain bastard of Richard is Katherine Plantagenet, who under that name became the wife of William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon before May 1484. The King paid the full cost of the wedding and made the couple at least two generous grants of money and land (some of the lands in reversion after the death of Lord Stanley). Katherine was almost certainly dead by November 1487 when the Earl was described as a widower and she appears to have had no children since the Earl’s heir was his daughter by Mary Woodville, his first wife.

We do not know the name of the mother of either John of Gloucester or Katherine (except that it is just possible that she was called Katherine), much less do we know the mother of the third bastard attributed to Richard. This third bastard is usually known as Richard Plantagenet (or Richard of Eastwell). The only proven fact we have for this Richard is that in the Parish register of the Kentish parish of Eastwell there is a notice of the burial of ‘Rychard Plantagenet’ in 1550. The other details usually cited, that he was acknowledged by Richard on the eve of Bosworth and was discovered by Sir Thomas Moyle, (the owner of Eastwell), working as a mason on his estate and given a cottage by him, all first appear in print in 1735. There is no evidence that any of this is true, nor that it is untrue. The only other ‘fact’ we have, that Richard Plantagenet’s tomb exists, is certainly not true. This tomb, still in the now ruined Eastwell church, dates from about 1480 and is probably that of Sir Walter Moyle and his wife. [Ed. note: see Anne Smith’s review for additional information on Richard of Eastwell.]

References and further detail for the above may be found in ‘The Illegitimate Children of Richard III’ by P.W. Hammond, Richard III: Crown and People, edited by J.O. Petre, 1985, pp.18-23, available from the Society’s Library. — PWH