In the autumn of 1475, following Edward IV’s entry into the Treaty of Picquigny with Louis XI of France, Anthony, Earl Rivers, decided to do some traveling. Already he had gone on pilgrimage to Santiago: this time, his destination was Italy.
Edward IV, Anthony’s brother-in-law, paved the way. On October 1, 1475, he wrote a letter to Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, informing him that Rivers, “one of his chief confidants and the brother of his dear consort,” would be traveling to Rome and would like to visit Milan and other places belonging to the duke, as well as the duke himself if it were convenient. Was Edward IV planning to have his brother-in-law conduct a little diplomacy?
Sadly, we do not have a detailed description of Anthony’s travels, or an account of whom he visited, but several years later, William Caxton, whose printing press Rivers patronized, recalled in his epilogue to The Cordyale (translated by Rivers) that Anthony had been on pilgrimage to Rome, to shrines in Naples, and to St. Nicholas at Bari. He had also obtained a papal indulgence for the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew at Westminster, where Anthony hoped to be buried.
All did not go smoothly for the English traveler, however. On March 7, 1476, Francesco Pietrasancta, Milanese Ambassador to the Court of Savoy, reported to the Duke of Milan that all of Rivers’ money and valuables had been stolen at the Torre di Baccano and that Queen Elizabeth was sending a royal servant to Rome with letters of exchange for 4,000 ducats. The ambassador took the occasion to ask the unnamed servant about Edward IV’s lifestyle. “The king devotes himself to his pleasures and having a good time with the ladies” was the reply.
Anthony’s misadventures had also come to the attention of John Paston, who wrote on March 21, 1476, that Lord Rivers “was at Rome right well and honorably” and had traveled twelve miles outside the city when he was robbed of all of his jewels and plate, which were worth at least a thousand marks.
The saga of Anthony’s jewels did not end there, however. On May 10, 1476, the Venetian Senate issued this sinister-sounding decree:
That for the purpose of ascertaining the truth as to this theft, in the neighbourhood of Borne, of the precious jewels and plate belonging to Lord Anthony Angre Lord Scales, brother of the Queen of England, and for the discovery of the perpetrators and of the distribution made of the property,—Be the arrest of Nicholas Cerdo and Vitus Cerdo, Germans, Nicholas Cerdo, and Anthony, a German of Schleswick, dealer in ultramarine, (arrested by permission from the Signory,) ratified at the suit of the State attorneys; and as they would not tell the whole truth by fair means, be a committee formed, the majority of which to have liberty to examine and rack them all or each; and the committee shall, with the deposition thus obtained, come to this Council and do justice.
Three days later, the Senate issued another decree, showing that when traveling abroad, it was extremely helpful to have royal connections:
Lord Scales, the brother-in-law of the King of England, has come to Venice on account of certain jewels of which he was robbed at Torre di Baccano, near Borne. Part of them having been brought hither and sold to certain citizens, he has earnestly requested the Signory to have said jewels restored to him, alleging in his favour civil statutes, enacting that stolen goods should be freely restored to their owner. As it is for the interest of the Signory to make every demonstration of love and good will towards his lordship on his own account, and especially out of regard for the King, his brother-in-law,—Put to the ballot, that the said jewels purchased in this city by Venetian subjects be restored gratuitously to the said lord; he being told that this is done out of deference for the King of England and for his lordship, without his incurring any cost.
As the affair is committed to the State attorneys.—Be it carried that they be bound, together with the ordinary councils, to dispatch it within two months, and ascertain whether or not the purchasers of the jewels purchased them honestly. Should they have been bought unfairly, the purchasers to lose their money. While, if the contrary were the case, Toma Mocenigo, Nicolo de Ca de Besaro, and Marin Contarini shall be bound as they themselves volunteered to pay what was expended for the jewels, together with the costs, namely, 400 ducats. These moneys to be drawn for through a bill of exchange by these three noblemen on the consul in London, there to be paid by the consul and passed by him to the debit of the factory on account of goods loaded by Venetians in England on board the Flanders galleys (Ser Antonio Contarini, captain,) on their return to this city; and in like manner to the debit of the London factory here, on account of goods loaded on board the present Flanders galleys (Ser Andrea de Mosto, captain), bound to England, on their arrival in those parts. If the attorneys and the appointed councils fail to dispatch the matter as above, they shall be fined two ducats each; yet, on the expiration of the said term, the said three noblemen shall be bound to pay the moneys above mentioned.
Having recovered part of his jewels, Anthony resumed his travels. (As his stay had been an expensive one, it may be that the Venetians were not entirely sorry to see him on his way.) In June, he arrived at the camp of Charles, Duke of Burgundy, who was preparing to fight the Swiss. Giovanni Pietro Panigarola, the Milanese ambassador, reported on June 9 that Anthony planned to stay two or three days before returning to England. On June 11, however, he wrote, “M. de Scales, brother of the Queen of England, has been to see the duke and offered to take his place in the line of battle. But hearing the day before yesterday that the enemy were near at hand and they expected to meet them he asked leave to depart, saying he was sorry he could not stay, and so he took leave and went. This is esteemed great cowardice in him, and lack of spirit and honour. The duke laughed about it to me, saying, He has gone because he is afraid.” Whatever Anthony’s motives—it may simply be that he realized this was not his fight—his decision was a fortunate one, for at the battle of Morat that ensued on June 22, the duke lost thousands of men, and would lose his own life at the battle of Nancy six months later. Anthony’s decision to shirk this one battle meant that he would return to England with his life, if not all of his goods, intact.
Calendar of State Papers, Milan
Calendar of State Papers, Venice
Norman Davis, ed., The Paston Letters
Cora Scofield, The Life and Reign of Edward IV