In Which I Create a Brand-New Conspiracy Theory

As some of you might know, there’s a school of thought which believes that Edward IV was poisoned and that the Woodvilles (of course) were the main suspects. The theory, first proposed by one R. E. Collins in a book whose co-author claims to have been in communication with the shade of Richard III, rests upon mighty flimsy evidence–a request by Anthony Woodville for a copy of a document authorizing him to raise troops, Anthony’s proposal that his nephew the Marquis of Dorset replace him as deputy constable of the Tower, and the household ordinances drafted for Prince Edward in which it was stated, “we wil that our said sonne observe and kepe theis articles before written touchinge his person, and that he ne take upon him to give, write, sende or commande any thinge withoute thavise of the said bishop [of Rochester], lord Richard [Grey] and Erle Rivieres.” Since Anthony already had been authorized to raise troops, and was merely obtaining a copy of a permission he already had at a time when trouble was looming with both the French and the Scots, it’s hard to see anything sinister in that. The proposal about the Tower merely substituted one Woodville for another, and was being discussed with the constable, Lord Dudley, who had appointed Anthony as his deputy in the first place. As for Prince Edward’s household ordinances, they were promulgated under the authority of Edward IV himself and were concerned with the rearing of the young boy (including such subjects as the prince’s bedtime); they did not address the eventuality of who would govern the realm in case of a royal minority. There’s also the problem that there’s no evidence that Edward IV was poisoned, nor did contemporaries (including Richard III, who certainly could have benefited from making such an accusation) ever suggest that the Woodvilles played a role in his death. Nonetheless, the conspiracy theory has gained some fans, which means, in my opinion, that it’s time to take the heat off the Woodvilles with a spanking new conspiracy theory.

The villain? John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk.

Now at first glance, John, married to Edward IV’s sister Elizabeth, and hitherto regarded as a bit of a nonentity, might seem an unlikely suspect. As we’ll see, however, the facts of his life simply ooze with sinister implications.

— John was the only son of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, Henry VI’s murdered adviser. In short, he was from a Lancastrian family. Need I say more?

— John was married at a very young age to Margaret Beaufort, who we all know was an evil person, because certain historical novelists tell us so. Although the marriage was annulled when the parties were still children, it’s quite possible that some of Margaret’s evilness rubbed off on John.

— John was forced to marry Elizabeth, a daughter of the Duke of York, in 1458. The marriage portion the duke offered was a mere 2300 marks, paid in installments and far less than the amount the duke had offered with his first daughter, Anne. Did John spend hours on end brooding on this injustice, mayhap?

— Despite loyally supporting his brother-in-law, John never played an important role in Edward IV’s reign, giving him yet another injustice to brood upon.

— Following the defeat of the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury, Margaret of Anjou spent some time in the custody of John’s mother, Alice de la Pole, before being returned to France. Did Margaret–often thought to have been broken in spirit following her son’s death at Tewkesbury–actually take one last opportunity to stir up trouble in England by planting murderous ideas in the mind of Alice’s son?

— When Richard III’s only legitimate son died in 1484, Suffolk’s son John, the Earl of Lincoln, may have been regarded as the king’s heir.

So now we have our suspect: a man from a Lancastrian family, associated with such sinister figures as Margaret Beaufort and Margaret of Anjou, whose marriage had brought him inadequate rewards and whose son had a distant claim to the throne. Do you see where this is headed? To clear the way for the Earl of Lincoln to take the throne, all John had to do was to bump off Edward IV, Edward IV’s sons, Richard III’s son, and Richard III himself, and keep the Duke of Clarence’s son, the Earl of Warwick, from taking the throne. And that, dear readers, is exactly what he did, destroying the royal family one by one like so many dominoes. Edward IV, the Princes in the Tower, and Richard III’s son were all murdered by John, who then arranged for the Stanleys to betray Richard III at Bosworth, thereby leading to Richard III’s own death.

Unfortunately, John did not reckon on one thing: the counter-plotting and the double-crossing of the unspeakable Margaret Beaufort, who still bore a grudge from being cast off as John’s bride so many years before. Instead of falling in with John’s cunning plan and allowing the Earl of Lincoln to be crowned king, therefore, Margaret decided to put her own son, Henry Tudor, on the throne. The Earl of Lincoln (whose wife, it should be remembered, was a niece of the sinister Elizabeth Woodville) was therefore forced to join the Lambert Simnel conspiracy, which purported to be in favor of putting the Earl of Warwick on the throne. It’s likely, however, that the conspiracy’s hidden, ultimate goal was to place the Earl of Lincoln on the throne. And who better to pull Lincoln’s strings than his Machiavellian father, John? (Indeed, John was so Machiavellian, I propose that the word “Machiavellian” be replaced with “Poleian.”)

Sadly for John, the conspiracy failed, and the Earl of Lincoln was killed at the Battle of Stoke. Amazingly, John was never implicated in his son’s treason–surely a sign of his skill as a conspirator–and lived undisturbed until 1492. The cause of his death is unknown, but I would venture to suggest that Margaret Beaufort, still bitter over being spurned and determined that her own dastardy deeds must never come to light, poisoned him.

By now some of you might be saying, this is all very clever, but where’s the evidence? And isn’t it a bit irresponsible to accuse a historical figure of a serious crime without some proof? To which I can only say, that’s the sort of hidebound, unimaginative thinking that gave us such nonsense as the presumption of innocence. We’re here to think outside the box, not to box ourselves in by dreary standards created by elitists.

And besides, just wait until I find a psychic to support my theory.

9 thoughts on “In Which I Create a Brand-New Conspiracy Theory”

  1. Susan, that was a good try, but I'm still right about the real murderer being Francis Lovell, driven by the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name for Richard III. The evidence is all there. All you have to do is look ;).

  2. You must write this, Susan! Now that it has been revealed to you, you have no choice – you Owe It To The World!

  3. Fantastic post! Brilliant! Can't think why I didn't it figure it out myself – it's so obvious:>

  4. This is such a great post on so many levels. Oh, the Poleian sinisterosity of Suffolk! Who knew? 😀

  5. Susan Higginbotham

    Caroline, I have to admit that the Lovell theory is tempting!

    Elizabeth, thanks!

    Ragged Staff, I agree! All I need is the right advance.

    Anjere, as entire generations of scholars have missed this theory, you shouldn't blame yourself too harshly.

    Kathryn, who knows what darkness lurks in every human soul?

  6. To judge by the comments of E W Ives, Okerlund and Carson AW didn't have the written permission
    or patent – it went missing

    So it seems did the relevant corresponding copy in the relevant CPR. Okerlund quoted a date 27th February 1483 but when I checked the BL edition,the original 1891 with names and places index I couldn't find it though in the course of checking everything AW I did make a serendipitous discovery.

    I understand you've the CPR on CD-Rom so could you take a peek as I've conspiracy theory about that missing patent that's bugging me.

    BTW you may not be so far wrong about Margaret B. It would seem M.K.Jones needs to gen up ln medieval cuisine, medieval medicine and the history of Westminster Abbey

  7. Susan Higginbotham

    Sorry, Trish, I don't have a CD-ROM of the Patent Rolls–I don't know if one exists, unless it's just a digitized version of the 1891 edition. What I have is the Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.

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