I was going to do something special for my 300th post today, but I was distracted from that greater purpose when I read abstracts of these articles, to be published in the Summer 2008 issue of The English Historical Research Journal. It’s truly exciting how discoveries like these come in clumps sometimes, isn’t it? Here are the abstracts:
Isabella’s Scottish Lover: New Evidence
For centuries, it has been assumed that Edward II was the father of Edward III. Now a recently discovered cache of documents, buried deep beneath the site where once stood Hanley Castle, has established irrefutably that—as long suspected by filmmakers and historical novelists—Edward II’s infamous queen did indeed enjoy a brief liaison with a Scottish warrior and that Edward III was the product of this extramarital affair.
The evidence, which comes in the form of a letter from Isabella intended to be given to her son when he came of age, notes by Edward II’s physician, and a fragment of a kilt that Isabella saved as a remembrance of her lover—as well as Edward III’s well-known and hitherto unexplained taste for haggis—indicates that when Isabella was staying in York, the warrior, injured and delirious, wandered south and was taken in by Isabella, who nursed him back to health, with extremely successful results. Meanwhile, Edward II himself had fallen ill and was being cared for daily by his physician, making his own paternity of Edward III an impossibility. When the warrior—known only as “Robert”– returned north, Isabella, discovering she was pregnant, confessed her secret to her husband, who was so concerned about the situation of his own lover, Piers Gaveston, that he agreed without argument to treat the child as his.
The location of the documents beneath Hanley Castle, home to Hugh le Despenser the younger and his wife, Eleanor de Clare, suggests that Eleanor, Isabella’s lady-in-waiting and favorite niece to Edward II, secreted them there, possibly with the idea of blackmailing Isabella or Edward III, or possibly to protect the Plantagenet dynasty from revelation of this secret.
In light of this discovery, it appears that research into the paternity of Isabella’s other children will be a fruitful endeavor.
Elizabeth Woodville and the Princes in the Tower: New Light on an Old Mystery
Historians have long puzzled over the question of the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower. Was it murder? Were they smuggled north or abroad by Richard III? Now a recently discovered document, buried deep beneath the site where once stood Bermondsey Abbey, Elizabeth Woodville’s last home, has revealed the startling truth: Elizabeth Woodville herself ordered the murder of her sons.
The document, which takes the form of a written confession and which has been established by handwriting experts as matching the queen’s handwriting, explains that Elizabeth, who turns out to have detested the male sex and small boys in particular, believed that by eliminating her boys, she could put her favorite daughter, Elizabeth of York, on the throne, either as wife to Richard III or as wife to Henry Tudor (“if it had to be a man, one was as good as another,” writes Elizabeth).
This discovery solves many other riddles about Elizabeth as well. Her hatred of men—attested here by explicit comments such as, “I hate men” —readily explains why she arranged good marriages for her sisters, but not for her brothers, why she sent young Edward to live far away from the court at Ludlow, why she acceded so willingly to Gloucester’s and Buckingham’s demand that her son Richard join his brother in sanctuary, and why she agreed to leave sanctuary in 1484 and place herself under the protection of Richard III. (Indeed, Richard III appears to have been one of the few men Elizabeth tolerated. “Richard wasn’t nearly as bad as the rest of them,” she writes. “At least he gave me more money to live on than Tudor.”)
Further research into the issue of Elizabeth Woodville’s sexuality, formerly not an issue among academics, may well be warranted by this discovery.