Richard of Eastwell (Kent)

Richard of Eastwell

Richard Plantagenet, or Richard of Eastwell, might well have been Richard III’s illegitimate son, but the evidence is circumstantial.

Tomb reputed to be Richard Plantagenet’s, Eastwell

On the eve of the Battle of Bosworth, King Richard is said to have acknowledged a third bastard; the other two were Katherine Plantagenet and John of Gloucester. This story was documented in a letter by a Dr. Brett to the 5th Earl of Winchelsea dated 1733 and reprinted in Desiderata Curiosa, Vol. 2, by Francis Peck in 1735.

A Richard Plantagenet’s death was registered in the Eastwell Church registry in 1550. He was 81. Although his name is inscribed on one of the tombs, the grave is more likely to be that of Sir Walter Moyle, who died in 1480.

Arthur Mee, a travel writer of note in the first half of the 20th century, wrote about “The Very Strange Story of Richard Plantagenet” in Kent (pub. 1936), part of The King’s England, County by County, Covering 10,000 Towns, Villages and Hamlets of the English Counties. His account is similar to the story published in the Eastwell Manor visitor’s guide today.

eastwell churchSt. Marys, Eastwell

Richard Plantagenet was a bricklayer or stonemason, employed by Walter’s son, Sir Thomas, on the rebuilding of Eastwell Manor. Mee states: “… Sir Thomas Moyle, building his great house here, was much struck by a white-bearded man his mates called Richard. There was a mystery about him. In the rest hour, whilst the others talked and threw dice, this old man would go apart and read a book. There were very few working men who could read in 1545, and Sir Thomas on this fine morning did not rest till he had won the confidence of the man …” It is said the book Richard was reading was in Latin, which was a language reserved for the highborn. The mason told Sir Thomas he was brought up by a schoolmaster. “From time to time, a gentleman came who paid for his food and school, and asked many questions to discover if he were well cared for,” wrote Mee. Richard went on to describe being taken to Bosworth Field and meeting his father for the first time. The king said: “I am your father, and if I prevail in tomorrow’s battle, I will provide for you as befits your blood. But it may be that I shall be defeated, killed, and that I shall not see you again … Tell no one who you are unless I am victorious.” When the battle was lost, Richard Plantagenet chose a simple trade in which to lose his identity and had thus come to work at Eastwell Manor. According to Mee: “Sir Thomas Moyle, listening to this wonderful story, determined that the last Plantagenet should not want in his old age. He had a little house built for him in the Park (which is still standing) and instructed his steward to provide for it every day.”