Oh, Tey, Can You See?

by Ruth Anne Vineyard

A curriculum for a high school junior and senior level research seminar in which students analyze the evidence and formulate hypotheses as to whether or not Richard had his nephews murdered.

To demonstrate the use of sound research techniques in the investigation of the 500 year old debate centering around Richard III, his nephews, and Henry VII. Students develop their hypotheses based on their study of inference, propaganda, fact vs fiction, and evaluation of the historical perspective.

The curriculum contains instructions for the teacher, a chronology of events, a genealogy chart, a photo page of Richard III and Henry VII, investigative worksheets, a bibliography, and an evaluation outline to aid students in summarizing their hypotheses.


an excerpt from Oh, Tey, Can You See? :




An Extremely Brief History of the Wars of the Roses


The conflict known as the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485) was a dynastic struggle for the English throne between the descendants of the sons of Edward III, the Duke of York and the Duke of Lancaster, all surnamed Plantagenet. In 1399 Henry of Bolingbroke, the son of the Duke of Lancaster, deposed and murdered the English king Richard II, grandson and rightful heir of Edward III. This placed the House of Lancaster, heirs of Edward III’s fourth son John of Gaunt, on the throne of England even though there were descendants better suited by birth rank to be king.

The actual struggle began in 1455 when Richard Plantagenet Duke of York challenged the right of Bolingbroke’s grandson Henry VI to be king. This Richard Duke of York was descended in the direct male line from Edward III’s fifth son Edmund Duke of York and through his mother, Anne Mortimer, in the direct female line from the third son Lionel Duke of Clarence. Thus, he had better title to the throne than Henry VI.

Richard Duke of York had married Cecily Neville. Proud Cis, as she was called, was the daughter of Joan Beaufort. [The Beauforts, children of John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster and his mistress Catherine Swynford, had been legitimized by their half-brother Henry IV (Bolingbroke) when he was king, but had been barred from the throne.] As a result, the sons of Richard Duke of York and Cecily Neville — Edward IV, Edmund Earl of Rutland, George Duke of Clarence, and Richard III — in fact, had direct lineage to Edward III by three of his sons, a most impressive claim.

Henry VI’s queen was the Frenchwoman Margaret of Anjou, and their son Edward of Lancaster had already been titled Prince of Wales, the traditional honor given to heirs of the British crown. While Henry VI was a pious and peaceful man, his queen Margaret had no intention of seeing her son set aside, as he was by the Parliamentary Act of Accord, in favor of Richard Duke of York and his sons.

Fighting between the rivals broke out and in late 1460 Richard Duke of York was killed by Margaret’s forces along with his second son Edmund Earl of Rutland and his brother-in-law, the Earl of Salisbury. Forwarding the Yorkist intent was now in the very able hands of the eldest York son, Edward (IV) Earl of March. He wasted little time and in a quick turnabout defeated Margaret who fled with her son Edward of Lancaster to France. Edward IV’s greatest adherent had been Richard Neville Earl of Warwick (called the Kingmaker) who was his cousin and the son of Salisbury.

With Henry VI imprisoned in the Tower and Margaret in France, Edward IV solidified his kingship and England remained at peace until 1469. Warwick stayed as Edward IV’s supporter and was given much control of northern England and headquartered at his family stronghold, Middleham Castle. After the custom of the time, Edward IV placed his two younger brothers, George Duke of Clarence and Richard (III) Duke of Gloucester, in the household of his cousin Warwick for tutoring and training.

Edward IV was a well-loved and excellent ruler, but he reopened the dynastic struggle by marrying a commoner, widow of a Lancastrian knight, Elizabeth Woodville, even as Warwick had been sent to arrange a marriage for Edward IV to the sister of the French king. The Woodvilles were a large and ambitious family and Elizabeth managed to aggrandize their positions through her marriage. This created havoc among the old nobility and caused fierce resentment on the part of Warwick who felt Edward IV had played him for a fool.

Warwick’s huge holdings in England’s north made him the most powerful lord in the country, possibly even richer than Edward IV himself. Warwick had two daughters and no sons, the girls being equal heiresses of his vast fortune. Edward IV’s brother, George Duke of Clarence, married the elder Isabel, without his royal brother’s knowledge or consent.

In 1469 the disgruntled Warwick joined forces with his oldest enemy and leader of the Lancastrians, Margaret of Anjou, and her son Edward of Lancaster. The vacillating Duke of Clarence accompanied his father-in-law to France to solidify the new alliance, probably hoping to oust Margaret’s faction and become king instead of his brother Edward IV. Warwick’s younger daughter Anne was married to Edward of Lancaster to seal the alliance. Warwick had tried to suborn Richard (III) Duke of Gloucester also, but Gloucester never wavered from his loyalty to his brother Edward IV.

Invading England, Warwick took quick control. Surprised, Edward IV and his youngest brother Richard (III) Duke of Gloucester fled to Burgundy. Warwick released Henry VI from his Tower prison and declared him king once more. Within a few months Edward IV and Gloucester returned, reversing their fortunes, and Gloucester managed to convince George Duke of Clarence to ally himself, once again, with his brothers.

In rapid succession, Warwick and his brother the Marquis of Montagu were defeated, Edward of Lancaster killed in battle, and Margaret captured. By 1471 Edward IV was firmly on the throne and, to prevent any further Lancastrian uprisings, he executed the old king Henry VI, although the official version was that Henry VI died of natural causes.

During the time of Edward IV’s exile, his queen Elizabeth Woodville had been in sanctuary with their daughters. While there, she gave birth to Edward IV’s heir, Edward V. They later had a second son, Richard Duke of York, named after his uncle Gloucester.

With Warwick dead, the shifting George Duke of Clarence became the owner of that vast inheritance through his wife Isabel. By law he was also the guardian of her younger sister Anne, co- heiress of the Neville holdings. His brother Richard (III) Duke of Gloucester wished to marry Anne, but George resisted, not wanting to have to divide up the estates. Because of his early part in Warwick’s rebellion, George was never fully trusted by Edward IV and the king finally forced George to allow the marriage. The unswerving loyalty of Gloucester to Edward IV would eventually bring into his hands a vast domain in England’s north, much greater even than Warwick’s had been. Gloucester was virtually King of the North.

In 1478, after Isabel’s death, George was executed by his brother Edward IV for treasonous activities that have never been completely explained. Some historians believe that George had evidence that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was unlawful and Edward IV was pressured by her and her family to end the threat of exposure by executing his brother. Richard (III) Duke of Gloucester pleaded long and protested loudly against the action earning even more enmity from the Woodville faction.

Throughout the period of Edward IV’s uninterrupted reign (1471 -1483) Richard and Anne lived quietly at their childhood home at Middleham Castle and came very rarely to the London court. Gloucester did not like the Woodvilles nor they him, but he served Edward IV unquestioningly and kept the north peaceful and quiet. The suspicious northerners did not like outsiders, but Richard’s upbringing at Middleham gave him an edge and he earned their respect and loyalty through fair and just governing.

When Edward IV died unexpectedly in April of 1483, Richard had been appointed by the king in his will as sole Protector (of the realm and of the heir, Edward V) until the boy was of age. The Woodvilles, fearing to lose their status, moved swiftly to undo the will, to gain control of the country and of the person of the boy king before Richard could be notified and get to London. Moving with the decisiveness and strategic intelligence that had marked him as a great warrior and valuable adherent of Edward IV, Richard foiled the plans of the Woodvilles and proceeded to assume his Protector’s duties and begin arrangements for the coronation of his nephew.

Some time within the next few weeks, the fact of Edward IV’s bigamous marriage to Elizabeth Woodville became known and the young heir, Edward V, was declared bastard and was set aside in favor of his uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester. This was done openly through Council and Parliamentary action. The legal document detailing the facts, Titulus Regius, was clear and concise in excluding Edward V, his brother Richard Duke of York, and any of the issue of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Richard Duke of Gloucester became King of England legally by birthright and by Parliamentary act.

The Wars of the Roses ended two years later in August of 1485 when the forces of the only Lancastrian claimant, Henry (VII) Tudor, defeated Richard III in the battle of Bosworth Field (Redmore Plain). Henry won only because his step-father, Thomas Lord Stanley, and Stanley’s brother William, turned against Richard in the last moments of the confrontation as Richard III himself was within striking distance of Tudor. Tudor had never fought a battle and did not do so now, letting others decide his fate.

Tudor’s claim to the English throne was extremely vague. He traced his right through his mother Margaret Beaufort, descendant of that illicit line of John of Gaunt and Catherine Swynford that had been barred from the crown by Parliamentary act. Tudor himself placed first his claim to the throne by conquest rather than by birthright. To solidify his claim, Tudor married Edward IV’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, by reversing Titulus Regius. Copies of the document were ordered destroyed by Tudor, but some escaped destruction. The sons of Edward IV — Edward V and Richard Duke of York — would also have been legitimized by the reversal of Titulus Regius and would have thwarted Tudor’s own claim.

There are good arguments that either Richard III killed his nephews or that Henry VII did. Both had opportunity and strong reason for doing so. It is interesting to note, however, that there were at least ten heirs with better crown rights than Tudor who were alive and living free of any restraint under Richard III. All were eliminated, including Richard III’s illegitimate son, John of Gloucester, within a few years of Tudor’s ascension.

Used by permission of Ruth Anne Vineyard, copyright ©1987. Permission to reproduce in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Act is hereby given, provided that no alterations are made to the text and that this notice is included as part of the reproduction. The full curriculum is available from the Richard III Society Sales Office.

About the Author: Ruth Anne Vineyard (“Darth Vineyard” to her students) teaches world history to regular and talented/gifted students at Highland Park High School, 4220 Emerson, Dallas, TX 75205, (214) 523-1700, where she also sponsors the Space Cadets, a science fiction interest club. She serves as the Schools Coordinator for the American Branch of the Richard III Society, where she is also in demand as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. She claims that her most challenging educational experience was teaching the poetry of Robert Burns to Chinese college students in Taiwan.