I’m pleased to be hosting a guest post by Lila Rhodes, with whom I’ve been chatting back and forth for some time about one of my favorite families, the Woodvilles (or Wydevilles, if you please). Without further ado, here’s Lila!
Hi, I’m Lila Rhodes.
Back in ’83 I met (through fiction) my knight in shining armor: Anthony Wydeville (1440-1483). Yup, I fell for this guy 500 years to the month after he was beheaded by order of (soon to be) Richard III. In Shakespeare’s Richard III, he appears as Earl rivers. Before long, I was mainlining history, drafting scripts about Anthony, and playing with the Society for Creative Anachronism. There, my persona is Agatha Whitney—who subsequently appears in my fiction. [Did you ever write yourself into a novel?]
Going, in Armor, for the Gold
by Lila Rhodes
After mass on the Wednesday before Easter 1465, Anthony Wydeville strode through Shene Palace to visit his sister. At twenty-five, he was Lord Scales, a baron. It had been only seven months since he had the surprise of his life: King Edward had married his sister. Without warning, he was the king’s brother-in-law.
Anthony found Queen Elizabeth, a young beauty with the delicate features of a china doll, seated on a carved chair and flanked by her ladies in waiting. One of her ladies-in-waiting was Anthony’s wife. Another was their sister Anne, another of the thirteen Wydevilles.
“Lord Scales,” the queen acknowledged him.
Anthony Wydeville, an athlete, stepped forward and sank to his knee. He doffed his velvet hat and let it fall upside down beside him on the richly colored carpet. “Your grace?”
“Are you practicing handling a pitcher and goblets on horseback?”
“Yes, your grace. I will be ready to serve spiced grape juice at your coronation feast.”
The queen nodded. The ladies moved forward and surrounded Anthony. Something glittered in Lady Scales’s hand. She and Anne Wydeville settled on either side of him. Lady Scales reached under her husband’s extended leg and handed one end of a band to Anne and they fastened it above his knee. It was a series of golden links shapes like 8’s, set with precious gems, and adorned with a flower of enameling on gold—for remembrance.
Another lady dropped something in Lord Scales’s hat before they all returned to their places.
Recognizing the honor, Anthony responded, “This comes nearer my heart than my knee.” In his hat, he found a scroll of parchment tied with a gold thread.
Anthony, Lord Scales, recognized at once that the flower was an emprise to be won by meeting the challenge described in this scroll. Eager as he must have been to read it, Anthony was a wise courtier. He took the scroll to King Edward and explained. “Her grace’s ladies have honored me with this emprise.”
Edward IV—who was twenty-three, huge, and handsome—broke the seal and read the message. “You are instructed to joust with a champion of your choice. The first day’s encounter will be on horseback and the second on foot.” He grinned at his brother-in-law. “Who might you challenge?”
That was a question. It had only been four years since Edward seized the throne, and civil war sputtered on. People from either side could easily be offended.
Lord Scales wrote at once to Comte de la Roche, an illegitimate son of the Duke of Burgundy and a famous jouster.
King Edward sent his Chester Herald with the jeweled emprise, to deliver the challenge. This called for a ceremony in the elegant court of the Duke of Burgundy in Brussels. The Chester Herald displayed the sparkling band of gems on gold and spoke to Count de la Roche. “You have the opportunity to meet Lord Scales in London to win this emprise for yourself.”
Count de la Roche, whose name was Antoine, asked about Anthony.
The herald answered, “He showed himself an able jouster at King Edward’s tournament last spring. Like yourself, he has also seen battle.”
A great deal of negotiation followed on the rules of this tournament. At one point the articles considered, with horror, the possibility that one of them could be hurt.
It was two years before Comte de la Roche, and four hundreds of followers, made it to London. On May 30, 1467, seven barges of key lords and Londoners escorted him to his landing place.
The count was the houseguest of a bishop. Lord Scales and the royal court paraded through the city. Something, maybe the elegance of his entourage, tipped Anthony off when he came to the count along the parade route. He turned his horse, and, for the first time, the opponents saw each other.
Comte de la Roche visited the opening of parliament and attended many feasts and dances. Meanwhile, the stockyard at Smithfield turned into their venue. The lists and three-story stands were built for the event.
The tournament began on June 11. The queen wore a very high-waisted houpland that obscured the fact that she would be having a child in July. The king’s purple robe spread out behind him over the sand, but the garter of the order on his leg was plain to see. He climbed two flights past knights and squires to join his counselors on the podium. Hundreds of important and wealthy Londoners entered, knelt before the king, and took their places in the opposite stands.
There was a knock on the wooden door at the end of the lists. The marshal of the tournament called out, “Who would enter?”
Lord Scales answered, “My name is Escallis. I am come to accomplish a deed of arms with the Bastard of Burgundy…” Lord Scales and his horse entered wearing cloth of gold. The horse trappings had gold fringe half a foot long. Behind him, came eight more horses ridden by his pages. The boys all wore green velvet, but the horses were all dressed differently in trappings clear to the ground. Three wore damask of different colors and patterns. Two wore velvet, and two fur. The last horse glittered in cloth-of-gold.
Next Count de la Roche received permission to enter. Some in his parade of horses wore fur, cloth of silver, and gold and silver bells.
The Marshal delivered a warning. “Viewers must not approach the lists, wave, or make any noise. Anyone doing so will be imprisoned until he pays whatever ransom the king demands.”
At the king’s signal, the jousters lowered their lances, rushed together, and missed each other completely. Tossing the lances away, they began fighting with their swords. Steel rung on steel and the horses churned up the sand.
Suddenly the count’s horse reared. The count clung to him as he rose higher and higher. The weight of the armed knight toppled the stallion over on top of him.
Lord Scales rode slowly around his opponent as the marshal crossed to the fallen count and thrashing horse.
There are many conflicting accounts of what happened. Some Burgundians even said that Lord Scales rammed his sword down the horse’s throat. Another version has Scales’s horse wearing an illegal spike on its faceplate. Some said there was blood around the horse’s mouth, other its nose. One version says it was pierced through the eye and killed instantly.
The day’s combat was over. Lord Scales was stripped in front of everyone as officials searched him for hidden weapons.
Miraculously, Count de la Roche walked away. When he was asked if he could fight, the count said, “Today I fought a beast. Tomorrow I will fight a man.”
And he did. They fought on foot with pole axes (a knight’s version of a Swiss army knife equipped with spear point, blade, hammer, and hook.)
The two champions pried pieces off each other’s armor. Each fought to put his opponent in a position where he could make no further moves. The baron brought his spear point up and wedged the tip in the count’s visor. Thrusting with this advantage, Lord Scales forced his opponent onto his knees. “Whoa” cried a lone voice in the stands. His command was picked up and repeated by the king’s marshals and heralds.
Anthony and Antoine removed their helmets. The count told the king and the marshal that he wished to continue.
The Marshal replied, “If you resume, it will be from the same position. You were on your knees with a spear point in your visor.” The count conceded.
King Edward called on them to shake hands and never fight each other again. There is no evidence of hard feelings between them.
It was probably clear to all the spectators who won the day. However, King Edward wanted an alliance with Burgundy and declared it a draw. Let us hope that Lord Scales, as well as the count, was given a jeweled band with a flower of gold for remembrance. In any case, this tournament is one way Anthony Wydeville is still remembered.