Arms and the Man: Was Edmund Tudor Illegitimate?

Recently, historian John Ashdown-Hill published a book called Royal Marriage Secrets, in which he purports to uncover evidence that Edmund Tudor, father of Henry VII, was not the son of Owen Tudor but of Edmund Beaufort—evidence, in short, that would entail renaming an entire dynasty.

The speculation does have some basis in fact. Following the death of Henry V, Catherine of Valois, a widow of only twenty-one, was said to have difficulty “curb[ing] fully her carnal passions,” and a contemporary rumor had it that Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (d. 1455) sought to marry her. The result was this statute, which refers to queens generally but is generally regarded by historians as being aimed at Catherine:

Item, it is ordered and established by the authority of this parliament for the preservation of the honour of the most noble estate of queens of England that no man of whatever estate or condition make contract of betrothal or matrimony to marry himself to the queen of England without the special licence and assent of the king, when the latter is of the age of discretion, and he who acts to the contrary and is duly convicted will forfeit for his whole life all his lands and tenements, even those which are or which will be in his own hands as well as those which are or which will be in the hands of others to his use, and also all his goods and chattels in whosoever’s hands they are, considering that by the disparagement of the queen the estate and honour of the king will be most greatly damaged, and it will give the greatest comfort and example to other ladies of rank who are of the blood royal that they might not be so lightly disparaged.

Assuming that he actually did have ambitions to marry Catherine, Edmund Beaufort heeded this warning; Owen Tudor, a mere squire, did not. At some point, he and Catherine of Valois secretly married and had a family of children together.

Ashdown-Hill, however, speculates that two of these children were fathered not by Owen, but by Edmund Beaufort out of wedlock. Unlike other historians who have indulged in such speculation in the past, he claims to have found concrete evidence that Edmund Tudor, and his brother Jasper, were Edmund Beaufort’s illegitimate offspring: their coats of arms. “These coats of arms, which owed nothing whatever to the arms of Owen Tudor, were clearly derived from the arms of Edmund Beaufort. The blue and gold bordures of Edmund and Jasper Tudor were simply versions of the blue and white bordure of Edmund Beaufort. . . . The whole purpose of medieval heraldry was to show to the world who one was. And the coats of arms of Edmund and Jasper Tudor proclaimed, as clearly as they could, that these two ‘Tudor’ sons of the queen mother were of English royal blood, while their bordures suggest descent from Edmund Beaufort. The only possible explanation seems to be that Beaufort was their real father.”

As further “proof,” Ashdown-Hill writes that a century later, Henry VIII rescued only two bodies from the dissolution: that of his sister Mary and his grandfather Edmund Tudor. Noting that Henry failed to retrieve his great-grandfather Owen’s body, Ashdown-Hill asks, “Could it have been that Henry VIII knew more about his true paternal ancestry than later historians?”

This, however, is awfully slender evidence on which to impugn Queen Catherine’s virtue—especially when one considers all of the evidence that Ashdown-Hill overlooks. First, as my friend Karen Clark pointed out on a Facebook discussion of this question, there is the strong resemblance between the Tudor brothers’ arms and that of their half-brother, Henry VI—suggesting that the coats of arms were designed to indicate not ancestry from Edmund Beaufort, but their kinship to Henry VI.

Henry VI's arms

Henry VI’s arms

Edmund Tudor's arms

Edmund Tudor’s arms

Jasper Tudor's arms

Jasper Tudor’s arms

Beaufort arms

Beaufort arms

Indeed, the Act of Parliament creating Edmund and Jasper earls, unmentioned by Ashdown-Hill, stresses the brothers’ relationship to the king (and their legitimacy):

To the most excellent and most Christian prince our lord the king, we the commons of this your realm, most faithful subjects of your royal majesty, in your present parliament assembled; in order that there may be brought before the most perspicacious eyes of royal consideration the memory of the blessed prince, Queen Catherine your mother, by whose most famous memory we confess we are very greatly affected, chiefly because she was worthy to give birth by divine gift to the most handsome form and illustrious royal person of your highness long to reign over us, as we most earnestly hope, in glory and honour in all things; for which it is necessary to acknowledge that we are most effectively bound more fully than can be said not only to celebrate her most noble memory for ever, but also to esteem highly and to honour with all zeal, as much as our insignificance allows, all the fruit which her royal womb produced; considering in the case of the illustrious and magnificent princes, the lords Edmund de Hadham and Jasper de Hatfield, natural and legitimate sons of the same most serene lady the queen, not only that they are descended by right line from her illustrious womb and royal lineage and are your uterine brothers, and also that by their most noble character they are of a most refined nature – their other natural gifts, endowments, excellent and heroic virtues, and other merits of a laudable life and of the best manners and of probity we do not doubt are already sufficiently well known to your serenity – that you deign from the most excellent magnificence of your royal highness to consider most kindly how the aforesaid Edmund and Jasper, your uterine brothers, were begotten and born in lawful matrimony within your realm aforesaid, as is sufficiently well known both to your most serene majesty and to all the lords spiritual and temporal of your realm in the present parliament assembled, and to us; and on this, from the most abundant magnificence of royal generosity, with the advice and assent of the same lords spiritual and temporal, by the authority of the same to decree, ordain, grant and establish that the aforesaid Edmund and Jasper be declared your uterine brothers, conceived and born in a lawful marriage within your aforesaid realm, and denizens of your abovesaid realm, and not yet declared thus . . .

 

. . . We, who embrace with sincere affection and goodwill all good men, especially the subjects of our power and rule, weighing with due consideration the foregoing and also the noble qualities, the exceptional natural gifts and the honourable reputation and manners and the other laudable merits of the probity and virtues with which we have in many ways perceived, both by our own experience and by the testimony of many faithful men, our sincerely beloved Edmund de Hadham, our uterine brother, to be distinguished, and among other things [considering] the nobility of birth and proximity in blood by which he is related to us as someone who is descended by right line from the illustrious royal house; and, moved by his foregoing merits, honouring him with singular grace, favour and benevolence, and thinking it right that, as he every day produces better examples of virtue and probity, our affection towards him should at the same time expand and grow according to the increase of his virtues, and that we also should adorn him, whom the nature of virtue and the royal blood have ennobled, with a title of civil nobility, the sign of a special honour, and the emblems of illustrious dignity, we have promoted, and do promote, by our own will, not at the instance of any petition of his or of another’s presented to us in this regard, but simply from our own generosity, the same Edmund, our uterine brother as aforesaid, as earl of Richmond alias de Richemond, we have appointed, ordained and created, and do appoint, ordain and create, him earl of Richmond alias de Richemond, and by the girding of a sword and of other appropriate insignia and ornaments in this regard, and by the present handing over to him of these our letters, we have invested and do invest [him] in and with the estate and dignity of such an earl; and we have given and granted, and we give and grant by these present letters to the same Edmund all the earldom and the name and title of earl of Richmond alias de Richemond, each and every kind of style, degree, seat, honour and preeminence pertaining and belonging in any way to the estate and dignity of earl. . . .

We, who embrace with sincere affection and goodwill all good men, especially the subjects of our power and rule, weighing with due consideration the foregoing and also the noble qualities, the exceptional natural gifts and the honourable reputation and manners and the other laudable merits of the probity and virtues with which we have in many ways perceived, both by our own experience and by the testimony of many faithful men, our sincerely beloved Jasper de Hatfield, our uterine brother, to be distinguished, and among other things [considering] the nobility of birth and proximity in blood by which he is related to us as someone who is descended by right line from the illustrious royal house; and, moved by his foregoing merits, honouring him with singular grace, favour and benevolence, and thinking it right that, as he every day produces better examples of virtue and probity, our affection towards him should at the same time expand and grow according to the increase of his virtues, and that we also should adorn him, whom the nature of virtue and the royal blood have ennobled, with a title of civil nobility, the sign of a special honour, and the emblems of illustrious dignity, we have promoted, and do promote, by our own will, not at the instance of any petition of his or of another’s presented to us in this regard, but simply from our own generosity, the same Jasper, our uterine brother as aforesaid, as earl of Pembroke alias de Pembroke, we have appointed, ordained and created, and do appoint, ordain and create, him earl of Pembroke alias de Pembroke, and by the girding of a sword and of the other appropriate insignia and ornaments in this regard, and by the present handing over to him of these our letters, we have invested and do invest [him] in and with the estate and dignity of such an earl; and we have given and granted, and we give and grant by these present letters to the same Jasper all the earldom, and the name and title of earl of Pembroke alias de Pembroke, each and every kind of style, degree, seat, honour and preeminence pertaining and belonging in any way to the rank and dignity of earl. We have willed and granted in addition, just as we also will and grant by our same letters to the aforesaid Jasper, that he shall have and occupy in every parliament, council, assembly and any other places both in our presence and elsewhere the place, sitting-place and seat immediately after and next to the place, sitting-place and seat of our dearest uterine brother Edmund de Hadham, earl of Richmond, alias de Richmond, his elder brother, and of his male heirs: so that the same Edmund and his male heirs shall be preferred [in front of and before] the other earls and any others below the rank and honour of duke of our realm of England in honour, dignity and preeminence and in place, sitting-place and seat.

The “appropriate insignia and ornaments” likely includes the coat of arms.

Moreover, since, as Ashdown-Hill pointed out, the whole point of medieval heraldry was to point out one’s background, why did Edmund and Jasper Tudor’s contemporaries fail to recognize them as Edmund Beaufort’s bastard offspring? In 1485, one man in particular would have been well served by questioning Edmund Tudor’s legitimacy, since it in turn would have allowed him to question that of Henry Tudor (whose parents would have been first cousins, married without a proper dispensation, if Edmund Tudor had been Edmund Beaufort’s son). That man, of course, was Richard III, facing an invasion by Henry Tudor.

In a proclamation issued in June 1485, Richard described Henry Tudor as “descended of bastard blood both of father side and of mother side, for the said Owen the grandfather was bastard born, and his mother was daughter unto John, Duke of Somerset, son unto John, Earl of Somerset, son unto Dame Katherine Swynford, and of their double adultery gotten.” Yet he nowhere questioned the legitimacy of Henry Tudor himself, or that of Edmund Tudor: he simply wrote, “the said rebels and traitors have chosen to be their captain one Henry Tydder, son of Edmund Tydder, son of Owen Tydder.” If there were any grounds to impugn the legitimacy of Henry Tudor or his father (not to mention Jasper Tudor, whom Richard also describes as Owen Tudor’s son), why did not Richard make use of them? Indeed, if there were any clues to Edmund Tudor’s illegitimacy to be found in his coat of arms, Richard, the founder of the College of Arms, was especially well equipped to obtain expert advice.

As for Henry VIII’s apparent indifference to Owen Tudor’s remains, Ashdown-Hill undermines his own argument by writing that Henry “did very little to rescue any royal burials from the doomed churches” (italics mine). Given such wholesale neglect on Henry VIII’s part, at least as portrayed by Ashdown-Hill, there need be no significance in Owen’s sharing the fate of other illustrious remains. Indeed, the tomb of another great-grandfather of Henry VIII, Richard, Duke of York, had fallen into such disrepair during Elizabeth I’s reign that the queen appointed commissioners to deal with the problem.

Finally, we have Owen Tudor’s illegitimate son, David Owen, born in 1459. If Ashdown-Hill’s theory were correct, David Owen would have no blood ties to either Edmund or Jasper Tudor. Yet in his will, he orders masses for the souls of “King Henry VII, Edmund, sometime Earl of Richmond, Jasper Duke of Bedford, my father and mother’s souls, my wife’s and all Christian souls.” As my friend Debra Bayani, who is writing a biography of Jasper, asked, why would David Owen remember Edmund—a man who died before David Owen was born—if Edmund was not his relation?

With all of this contrary evidence, Ashdown-Hill’s gleeful references to the “so-called Tudor royal family” seem ill-founded, to put it politely.

Sadly, Catherine of Valois isn’t the only historical woman whose reputation Ashdown-Hill sees fit to impugn on insufficient evidence in Royal Marriage Secrets. We’re informed that Catherine’s mother had “enjoyed the reputation of being something of a nymphomaniac”—a reputation that authors such as Tracy Adams have recently questioned, although you couldn’t tell it from anything in Ashdown-Hill’s book. (And what, precisely is “something of a nymphomaniac”? One might as well go whole hog.) He tells us that Margaret of Anjou became pregnant while Henry VI was mentally ill—in fact, Henry VI did not suffer his breakdown until Margaret’s pregnancy was well advanced—and adds, “it has long been questioned whether Edward of Westminster was truly fathered by Henry VI.” Needless to say, the political motivations behind the rumors of the illegitimacy of Margaret’s son go unremarked. Even the mother of Elizabeth Woodville comes in for a gratuitous slur when Ashdown-Hill writes that “it is possible that Jacquette had already been pregnant at the time of her second marriage.” No evidence is offered in support of this assertion.

I find this willingness to stain the reputation of historical women on such flimsy evidence disheartening, particularly when the writer doing this academic version of “slut shaming” is an accredited historian. I find it even more disheartening when the author is someone dedicated to restoring the good name of another historical figure, Richard III. But Catherine of Valois’s royal dignity survived her corpse’s being exhumed and put on display to be bussed by Samuel Pepys; no doubt it will survive this latest assault.

Sources:

W. H. Blaauw, “On the Effigy of Sir David Owen in Easeborne Church, Near Midhurst,” in Sussex Archaeological Collections (1848).

Ralph Griffiths, King and Country: England and Wales in the Fifteenth Century (“Queen Katherine of Valois and a Missing Statute of the Realm”).

P. W. Hammond and Anne F. Sutton, Richard III: The Road to Bosworth Field.

Sofiga Matich and Jennifer S. Alexander, “Creating and recreating the Yorkist tombs in Fotheringhay church (Northamptonshire),” in Church Monuments, vol. XXVI (2011).

The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England (CD-ROM).

 

 

 

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43 Responses to Arms and the Man: Was Edmund Tudor Illegitimate?

  1. Teresa says:

    It would seem that the practice of “tabloid” history writing, in search of a gullible audience, is the unhappy but logical child of tabloid journalism. You can always sell when slamming someone, especially if they are royal, whether they be current or 500 years dead.

  2. Esther says:

    How strange … I’m a little disappointed in Ashdown-Hill. I’m not sure if this is anything new, though — I recall reading somewhere that, at some point, many doubted if Catherine of Valois and Owen Tudor were ever validly married.

  3. Karen says:

    Well said, Susan!

  4. KSwynford says:

    Somehow I just knew that the ‘double avoutry gotyn’ comment was coming :-\ Wonderful blog post! I’m going to have to look up that article on David Owen’s effigy now :)

  5. Anerje says:

    Great comments from you Susan. I think there is a ‘culture’, if I can call it that , of searching for salacious gossip when there is none, and even the most tenuous link is made and trumpeted as ‘evidence’.

  6. Vermillion says:

    It sounds to me like another of these attempts to synthesise a ‘new discovery’ from ‘evidence’ that somehow has passed all other historians by in order to assert that a forthcoming book actually has something genuinely new to offer.

    Ashdown-Hill’s determination to promote the cause of Richard III is clear from his previous works, but I always think it’s ironic that many writers who are sympathetic towards Richard feel the need to make a villain of someone else in his place. Just as a black-and-white take on Richard is unlikely to provide much insight into what actually happened, doing the same to anyone else isn’t likely to be any more beneficial either…

  7. k9feline says:

    It never fails to amaze me just how much of the defense of Richard III involves slandering and slut-shaming women: Elizabeth Woodville, her mother Jacquetta, her sister Katherine, Margaret of Anjou, Richard’s own mother Cecily Bonville (to make Edward IV illegitimate), Catherine of Valois here, and in the source you cite here, Kathryn Swinford. Margaret Beaufort, for whom “slut-shaming” isn’t even faintly plausible, is still all too often portrayed as a deceitful, grasping schemer who was always plotting to make her son king, even though that wouldn’t have been at all likely anytime before late 1483.

    In contrast, in the stories that depict Richard as a villain, there is none of this slut-shaming in order to make him look bad. Even Shakespeare portrays Anne Neville as a tragic, sympathetic character.

    • boswellbaxter says:

      Very true. What is puzzling is how many women ignore this unpleasant aspect of Richard’s defense.

    • Leslie says:

      Richard III’s mother was Cecily Neville, not Bonville.

      I, too, was under the impression that there’s no actual record of Catherine de Valois’ marriage to Owen Tudor; of course, there are no actual records of a lot of things, so that might not mean anything, but those proclamations sound an awful lot like the-lady-doth-protest-too-much.

      Leaving aside all the others, I’m a little baffled about why you’re indignant on Catherine Swynford’s behalf as if she’s some sort of injured innocent; she was involved in an adulterous relationship with John of Gaunt and bore four bastards. It’s not slander to point out the truth, and given that the Tudor claim to the throne is based in large part on descent from one of those bastards, it was quite relevant for that truth to be pointed out on the eve of an expected invasion by the person with the spectacularly flawed claim.

  8. Mary R says:

    “Item, it is ordered and established by the authority of this parliament for the preservation of the honour of the most noble estate of queens of England that no man of whatever estate or condition make contract of betrothal or matrimony to marry himself to the queen of England without the special licence and assent of the king, when the latter is of the age of discretion, …..considering that by the disparagement of the queen the estate and honour of the king will be most greatly damaged, and it will give the greatest comfort and example to other ladies of rank who are of the blood royal that they might not be so lightly disparaged.”

    Some things never change. Ladies, we want control over your reproductive choices…for your own good!

  9. Hans./. says:

    I am not the greatest living expert on heraldry. In fact, I do not even come close enough to be named a bad expert! LoL
    Having said that though, I do know that something like this bordure is to show that the person in question is not entitled to use the arms as they were originally. Which makes sense, since the Beauforts were to some extent of questionable descent (or at best a younger branch). Hence not the same arms as the king. The same applies to the Tudor brothers. They were not entitled to use the same arms as the king, since they were not his full brothers by his father. But since they were his half brothers, Henry did indeed grant them arms to show they were closely related to him. That, in my opinion was the statement he wanted to make. Not that they were descended from some Welsh family, or Beaufort bastards.
    A more locigal solution than the one Ashdown-Hill invented. The bordures are a way of creating a new version of arms already used by a family (in this case the royal arms). There are also other ways of showing this, and the only thing that can be derived is that the people concerned are in some way related to the person who uses the full arms. In other words: both the Beaufort arms and the Tudor arms show their close relationship to the royal house of England. Without telling who is the father of any particular person. Using this kind of “evidence” is the same kind of nonsense that is being used in some of the Prince Tudor theories….
    Looking for hidden meanings where there are no real hidden meanings at all. I mean, people were not THAT stupid, not even in the fifteenth or sixteenth century! LoL
    Although some researchers seem to love the idea that they are much cleverer than these ignorant people in the past…

    I do think it is sad that people advocating a new view on Richard III’s reputation keep thinking it necessary to blacken the reputation of others. Either Richard gets what is due to him on his own accord, or he does NOT get a better reputation. That is the job of any historian…

    Balance, balance, balance!!

  10. Paul Spittle says:

    Ashdown-Hill’s crusade to rehabilitate the reputation of Richard III seems to be at any cost.
    Any cost to virtually any other person from history…
    Any cost to far more provable versions of the events…
    and any cost to common sense.

    I believe his main motivation is the financial rewards his books make him from the Ricardian market…
    whether he actually believes the things he writes is another matter,

    I lost all respect for Ashdown-Hill when he described Eleanor Talbot as ‘The secret Queen of England’…!
    If every woman who was bedded by Edward IV could be called a Queen 15th Century England would’ve had more Queens than San Francisco during Mardi Gras.

    • boswellbaxter says:

      Love it!

      I do think he’s entirely sincere, though. I suspect his admiration of Richard III is so strong that it makes him incapable of seeing more than one side to an issue.

  11. I spoke to my husband about this (he is an heraldic maniac and runs europeanheraldry.org ) . He says that these arms having nothing whatever to do with any Beaufort connection. Richard II gave his half brothers royal arms with augmentations. Henry VI was doing the same thing – they are royal arms with a border for difference. The fleurs de lis to reflect their Valois blood and the martlet a device used by Owen Tudor

  12. Celia Parker says:

    I have to say my reaction to this was: so what if Edmund Tudor was illegitimate? It has no bearing on Henry VII’s claim to the throne, which in so far as it was hereditary (as opposed to by conquest) came from his mother’s Beaufort family. Having been Henry V’s consort gave Catherine of Valois and her descendants by later marriages or liaisons no claim whatever to the English crown – though you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise as Henry VI granted his maternal half-brothers coats of arms very like the England royal arms.

    John Ashdown-Hill did sterling work to locate Richard III’s remains (only to find most of the credit going to a lachrymose blonde), but he is given to asserting as fact what can be no more than a theory, based on limited evidence. He now routinely refers to Eleanor Butler’s ‘marriage’ to Edward IV as an established fact. (E.g. ‘The Last Days of Richard III’, PP 15, 58).

    You do have to wonder what Edmund Beaufort was like- he was also, was he not, alleged to have fathered Margaret of Anjou’s son.

    • boswellbaxter says:

      I’ve never found a contemporary reference to Somerset or any specific nobleman being suspected of fathering Edward of Lancaster; the allegation about Somerset seems to have come from later writers assuming that Edward was illegitimate and looking for likely suspects. Warwick suggested at one point, if I recall correctly, that Edward was fathered by a strolling player.

      That’s all too true about Ashdown-Hill asserting the “marriage” as proven fact, unfortunately.

  13. Sonetka says:

    Slightly off-topic, but am I the only one who thinks it’s kind of creepily awesome that Pepys actually kissed Catherine of Valois’ corpse? I mean, just imagine being able to say you did that. Besides, I’ll bet Richard III at least has gotten that a few times since he’s been dug up, and Catherine Parr and Evita Peron’s corpses had some posthumous adventures as well. That subject would make a nice creepy little monograph.

    • boswellbaxter says:

      LOL! It would!

      • Hans./. says:

        Better keep quiet about it! Otherwise we might end up with a Hollywood film: The Return of The Richard… No doubt followed by a sequel, The Revenge of the Royal Skeleton. LoL

  14. Edith says:

    Thought provoking as always Susan!

    My take on JAH and his pursuit of Plantagenet family secrets is rather blunt. He appears to be clearing the deck of all legitimate rivals for the crown, thus proclaiming Richard III the only once and future king.

    Sadly too many Ricardians and so called historians are keeping pace and I’m afraid the golden age of 15th century scholarship is entering a new era of fan worship and speculative fiction.

    • Hans./. says:

      I don’t think speculative fiction is that bad in itself. It may trigger some one to reconsider her or his interpretation of older research. The same applies to provocative theories by historians. But they should be based on something. And even with my fairly limited knowledge of heraldry I can point at the flaws in this theory. And Leanda de Lisle in fact contributed the same thing…
      I know by experience how galling it can be when you have this cute little theory, and you find things that contradict everything that you have been considering. The difference between being the next Emmanuel Le Roi Ladurie and publish the next world wide acclaimed historical best seller, or being “just” a historical researcher… LoL

      The thing is, none of the discussed persons is without some smudge. Who ever you name, Warwick, Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII (just to name the males), they all have good and bad qualities. They made sensible decisions and stupid ones. We should bear that in mind.
      As I said before (here or in other places), our interpretation ends in finding a balance…
      And sometimes we just have to admit we do not know. We are looking at a puzzle, knowing some of the pieces are missing. And sadly enough most of the time the most important pieces are missing. And then it all comes down to interpretation. And interpretation can be very personal. History and science are two completely different notions…

      • Mary R says:

        “Here, here”! Or perhaps in this case, “Hear, hear” might be more appropriate. In either case, well said, Hans!

  15. Ann says:

    I think that Ashdown-Hill’s special love is Eleanor Talbot rather than Richard III. He has concluded that Eleanor was, by the rules of the medieval church, validly married to Edward, and all the rest follows from that.

    I’ve also just finished ROYAL MARRIAGE SECRETS, which is an interesting review of a number of royal marital issues and a review and analysis of known royal mistresses. It goes from William the Conqueror to George V, which includes different kinds of relationships — in William’s day, ‘concubines’ were very much in the picture. Ashdown-Hill does analyze medieval marriage generally, particularly Church/State concerns, and includes Henry VIII’s first two marriages in the ‘medieval’ group since they were made before Henry changed the medieval Catholic rules, which seems reasonable.

    • Leslie says:

      “He has concluded that Eleanor was, by the rules of the medieval church, validly married to Edward, and all the rest follows from that.”

      Well – if his conclusion is correct, then it would follow that Edward IV’s children were illegitimate and not qualified to inherit the throne, and that Richard III was quite justified in claiming it.

      Come to that, somewhere up-thread someone said that nobody who attacks Richard III’s claim to the throne impugns the honor of any women in doing so, and says that those who support Richard’s claim slander Elizabeth Woodville. Oh? Those who claim that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was valid are, by that very fact, impugning Eleanor Butler’s honor by saying she was his mistress rather than his wife.

  16. Buck says:

    Impugning the virtues of a woman was de rigeur in the 15th century, as a way of demonstrating that she was out of favour. That a modern historian would fall for that is… odd.

  17. Fallon says:

    Wouldn’t this revelation mean that Margaret Beaufort (Henry VII’s mother) married her 1st cousin? Wouldn’t this mean that Henry VIII’s grandparents were 1st cousins?? Would Edmund Beaufort have let that happen, really – I mean, wasn’t that weird, even for that time? I would love for there to be more commentary on this…

  18. BanditQueen says:

    I have great respect for the work done by John Ashdown-Hill in the search for the relatives of Richard III for the purposes of a true family tree and to enable him to work with the search for the remains of Richard III and his reputation. I have to say, though it seems his recent book has one thing as its aim, to promote the legitimacy of Richard III to the throne above the claim of Henry Tudor. While the former had a more senior claim; it seems pointless now trying to make a vague and unsubstantiated case for the total illegitimacy of the Tudor line and the reputation of Henry Tudor’s family is being hammered the same way that the Tudors misled history in the blackening of the reputation of Richard III.

    Richard claimed that his own brother was illegitimate and not only that his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was unlawful, as the King Edward had been beguiled by witchcraft of all things; not merely because he was meant to have been promised in marriage to someone else; thus he was setting on parchment and in law the reasons for taking the throne from his young nephews: so that he was the only legitimate heir left. Had Richard wanted to he could have gone further and claimed that his only legitimate adult opponant to the throne was also born out of wedlock and that Henry’s father was the child of adultery or born out of wedlock. He did not. He obviously felt that he did not need to and that he had no proof of such a statement. Sadly, John Ashdown-Hill does have a reason: to promote even more the claim of Richard to the throne. By claiming all of the Tudors have a shady legitimacy; he further enforces the York claim going all the way back down the line; not through Edward, but through Richard.

    I have said this before in another post: books have to sell. I am certain that Dr Ashdown Hill believes that the evidence he has uncovered in his research supports his case. I cannot agree with him.

  19. Zoe says:

    I haven’t read „Royal Marriage Secrets“ but „The last days of Richard III“ and „Eleanor – the secret Queen“ and as far as I recall, John Ashdown-Hill never claims that it’s a fact that Edward IV plighted his troth to the Lady Eleanor Butler, because there simply is no evidence. If it was an established historical fact, what would be the point of writing a whole book about it? He presents his theories in his books and thereby draws his conclusions for his analysis. There is a difference. And the latter is exactly what almost every proper scholars does (of course, some do it more professionally than others). David Baldwin wrote a book about the potential survival of Richard of Shrewsbury and accepts his theory. I was not convinced, but he makes a lot of good points and far be it from me to question his actual scholarship. Historians are scientists, they’re allowed to accept their theories on their own research, when no historical evidence is at hand to prove otherwise. And the reader is allowed to say „Buy it“ or „Don’t buy it“.
    Like I said, I haven’t read everything he’s written and I’m not always agreeing with him but overall I find him quite convincing and awesome and I’ve also noticed that unlike other scholars he isn’t morally judging. So just flatly stating that John Ashdown-Hill draws his conclusions simply for the sake of slut-shaming some bitches is imo pretty lazy.

    • boswellbaxter says:

      In “The Last Days of Richard III” he presents the alleged marriage to Eleanor Butler as an established fact: “He entered into two clandestine and overlapping contracts with at least two English noblewomen . . . As aresult, he engendered, by his second and bigamous clandestine marriage to Elizabeth Woodville . . ”

      I used the term “slut-shaming” facetiously, but the fact remains that to prove Edmund Tudor illegitimate, Dr. Ashdown-Hill ignores evidence to the contrary, and in general seems inclined to assume the worst about the sexual conduct of certain women (such as Catherine of Valois, Margaret of Anjou, and Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford) based on little more than rumor and gossip.

  20. Liz Stein says:

    Any scholar who claims that his is “the only possible explanation” has disqualified himself from serious consideration as a scholar. Combining that with simple belief in the reported sexual appetites of any woman who has or has had the misfortune to be perceived to be in a position of power reduces Ashdown-Hill to the slush-pile of “historians I shall not bother to read.” Thanks for letting me know!

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