Richard the Mourner?

(First, thanks to Joan for discussing this with me over at the Richard III Society’s private Yahoo group.)

On a number of places on the Internet, including both the Richard III Society and the Richard III Foundation websites, it’s stated as a fact that Richard wept openly at his queen’s funeral. The Richard III Foundation adds the touch that he shut himself up for three days afterward. None of these accounts cite a source for their information.

So did Richard weep at Anne’s funeral and shut himself up for three days afterward? Nothing I have found supports either statement. The Crowland Chronicler simply states, “Queen Anne died and was buried at Westminster with honours no less than befitted the burial of a queen.” No list of those who attended the funeral is given, and Crowland says nothing of Richard shutting himself away.

Richard himself did not make such a statement. In denying rumors that he had poisoned his queen so that he could marry his niece, Richard said that he was not “willyng or glad of the dethe of his quene but as sorye & in hert as hevye as man myght be.” Nowhere in his expression of grief does he mention his attendance at Anne’s funeral or three days of private mourning.

As for modern sources, Richard’s biographer Paul Murray Kendall, who deeply admired his subject and who would surely would have gotten the maximum pathos out of Richard’s weeping at Anne’s funeral or isolating himself, doesn’t mention him doing either. Joanna Laynesmith in The Last Medieval Queens, which discusses the funeral rites of Anne and other queens, mentions only Crowland’s one-sentence account of Anne’s funeral.

Caroline Halsted, who wrote a nineteenth-century biography of Richard III, does mention “the tears which [Anne’s] husband is allowed to have shed when personally attending her remains to St. Peter’s, Westminster.” Alas, when one follows the reference Halsted gives, it leads to Richard Baker’s Chronicle of the Kings of England (1670). Baker, however, has Richard shedding only “formal tears,” not tears of sorrow: “for within few dayes after, whether by poyson, or by what other means, it is not certainly known, she departed this life; and with all solemnity, not without some formal tears of King Richard, was interred in St.* Peter’s Church at Westminster.”

George Buck, a seventeenth-century apologist for Richard, writes (in the edition of his book prepared by Arthur Kincaid) simply that Richard “was rather taken to be uxorious than otherwise, and at her death expressed it in his heavy mourning, causing very magnificent exequies to be prepared for her, interring her non cum minore honore quam reginat decuit, as the Prior of Croyland testifieth.” No funeral tears, no shutting himself up.

Finally, I checked Clements Markham’s 1906 Richard III: His Life and Character, and found that Markham does indeed state that Anne “was buried in Westminster Abbey; her sorrowing husband shedding tears over her grave.” But Markham cites Buck as his source–and Buck doesn’t say that Richard was present at the funeral or was seen to shed tears there. Thinking that the original edition of Buck, the text of which is notoriously corrupt, might bear out Markham’s claim, I checked a facsimile of the 1647 edition of Buck cited by Markham and found only this: “he was rather thought uxorious than otherwise; which appeared unfeignedly at her death, in the expression of sorrow and magnificent Exequies for her.” Again, this neither places Richard at Anne’s funeral nor has him isolating himself; it simply has him grieving and arranging a magnificent funeral.

So, no contemporary source places Richard at Anne’s funeral shedding tears of sorrow; this seems to be Halsted’s and Markham’s embellishment, unsupported by the seventeenth-century sources they cite. And where the story that Richard III shut himself up for three days came from, I still haven’t a clue.

Would Richard have even attended Anne’s funeral, for that matter? Edward I and Richard II attended their queens’ funerals (I haven’t figured out whether Edward III was present at Queen Philippa’s), but Henry VII, who’s known to have grieved after Elizabeth of York died, didn’t attend her funeral, and Henry VIII didn’t attend Jane Seymour’s funeral even after she presented him with his long-sought-after son. It depends, I guess, on whether Richard III followed what seems to have been the earlier custom of presence or the later custom of absence.

The fact that there’s no contemporary evidence that Richard attended Anne’s funeral, wept for her there, and shut himself up for three days doesn’t, of course, mean that he didn’t mourn her, though it does leave us only with his word that he did. Nor should it be taken as evidence that he hastened her death, which I’ve never believed. It does show, however, how unsupported assertions gradually acquire the status of historical fact and, thanks to the Internet, gain vigorous new life.

21 thoughts on “Richard the Mourner?”

  1. Couldn't agree more – as much as I love the Internet, this is a huge problem.

    Very interesting that English kings did not always attend their queens' funerals. In France the king didn't attend anyone's funeral, and in fact never went to the royal mausoleum of St Denis until he died himself. Nor did French Queens usually attend funerals – Louis XIV's Queen Marie-Therese attended the funeral of Henriette d'Angleterre, but it was incognito.

  2. Thank you again, Susan, for helping to strip away some more sentimentality surrounding RIII. I've read several historical novels written from a Ricardian viewpoint, and with the exception of Reay Tannahill's The Seventh Son, I found myself rolling my eyes at passages where RIII is just the most perfect husband evah- sweet, patient, faithful, and of course, awesome in bed as well!
    I also think the fact that RIII had no known mistresses/illegitimate children during his marriage is an enormous turn-on for some women.
    I finished The Stolen Crown in three days. Thank you for writing such a wonderful book. I can't wait to read your novel about MOA.

  3. Great post, especially the last line. Like Miss Moppet, I love the Internet, but the sheer number of historical misapprehensions repeated here as 'fact' is mind-boggling.

  4. It's part of the dialectic that's still working it's way through the Richard III story. What we're coming to now is a more even view. We got the monster stories for centuries, then we got the pure white knight stuff in an attempt to counterbalance. We might actually be coming to a time of real balance. Looking forward to that. There's more need to be taken down that road. I'm in the process at the moment (thankless as I know it will probably be) of rehabilitating the Nevills. There was far more to them (collectively and individually) than the cardboard cutouts in most WOR fiction leads people to believe.

  5. Susan Higginbotham

    Moppet, that's fascinating about the French royals!

    Caroline, thanks! I enjoyed the Reay Tannahill book too.

    Kathryn, that's for sure! (I noticed that the guy on Amazon who has Richard III liberating poor little Warwick from the Tower now has "Bishop Stillwell" revealing the precontract. Since Stillwell Avenue is the main drag in New York's Coney Island, I now have a mental image of Stillington standing outside of Nathan's Famous munching on their hot dogs.)

    Ragged Staff, looking forward to your work on the Nevilles! I think you have a point about the balanced view of Richard III beginning to take hold. One can only hope!

  6. I just assumed it wouldn't do for a strong King to show his possible weakness by crying for a wife he truly loved (in some cases). Maybe there were some superstitious reasons too. Interesting information.

  7. Good grief Sue. You don’t suppose the RGs would have it any other way than he sat weeping throughout the ceremony using an entire box of Kleenex in the process!

    As for the historical or should that be hysterical misapprehensions pardon me for saying so and no pun intended but when one discovers in the Calendar of Patent Rolls that this shining example of fraternal loyalty received a royal pardon as did his wife ‘of all offences committed by them’ it doesn’t half send that halo flying and doesn’t do much for Anne’s goody-goody gooey-eyed image either.

    As the end of the day it all comes down to Buck and whether he was telling the truth or not Having looked into Buck’s own history and what it says on Pages 67-69 – what a giveaway – the conclusion is that he was a front man not a lone operator and that his book was written for political motives, the 17th century equivalent of ‘Mein Kampf’ – similar whinge, similar tactics – and even his claims of provenance are beginning to look decidedly bogus. As it is I don’t think the Francis Bacon Society is going to be too happy either.

  8. Checking the facsimile of a 1647 document – now that is attention to detail. I do wish historians would be more rigorous about what's fact, what's inference and what's speculation. You need all three sometimes to make sense of events, but it's only fair to the reader to be clear about which is which. More power to your elbow in chasing down internet factoids!

  9. Carla has got it right on the button. I do wish historians would pay more attention to detail. And how about this glorious example of failure to pick up on errors that's been in print for over 200 years, now replicated on the Internet, and yet it seems I'm the first to pick up on it 'In 1485 King Richard II….. Ouch! As it it is I'm getting tired of continually tripping over one historical faux pas after another.

    As for that royal pardon I must have checked up on every book and article on R3 EIV and EV the British Library has in its collection yet not one mention not even from the detractors or the royal pardon on the opposite page granted some eight months later at the request of R3 'to the king's subjects in the counties of York, Cumberland, Northumberland and Westmoreland and the city of York and the precint of the same and town of Kyngeston(Kingston) on Hull' I find both entries highly signifiant since at the very least they suggest that in the intervening period there had been a significant shift in the balance of the power and what on earth was happening up North to neccesitate the second pardon?

    Other grouses include lack of curiosity partiucarly in the matter of anomalies and inconsistencies such as the dog not barking in the night – one dog not barking that's curious, when so many fail to do so that's downright suspicious – lack of logic – if all those dogs failed to bark at the same time isn't the most likely explanation that they had no need to do so – and lack of date awareness events happening at the same time which I've been able to connect to each other and consequently been able to see matters in a new light such as in the case of Jacquette who by keeping the Lancastrian army away from London after the second battle of St Albans obviously did the same for her future son-in-law Edward IV giving him much needed breathing space and possibly changing the course of history at the same time.

    Apropos MoA I can't help wondering what her reaction would have been once she'd realised that she had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. From that moment on it was downhill all they way.

    Commiserations to Ragged Staff. The Nevilles are also on the hit list and do I mean hit list. As it is nobody has come out smelling of roses so far least of all them so perhaps we should drop the Victorian shmaltz of WOTR and rename it 'War of the Egos' instead. I'm not sure whether that's a more balanced view but perhaps more enlightened?

  10. f3a2d508-4fe6-11e0-9f27-000f20980440

    Great post! It's so amazing how many "folk tales" get distributed via the internet. Given how many unsubstantiated stories there are in my own genealogical background (we're related to Robert Burns – not, my grandmother's mother was a native american – not, grandpa was born in Connecticut – not, the gateway ancestor was irish – not), it's not surprising that these exist for historical figures as well. Although you would think the research more rigorous apparently "not." 🙂

  11. You seem to be claiming that in order to find out what appeared in the original off Buck’s HIST. OF RICH. III you had a look at the 1617 version (which is a reprint of the 1646 edition) of George Buck’s history. This is NOT THE SAME as SIR George Buck’s history, written in ms. in 1619! George Buck was Sir G.’s great nephew. He cut his great uncle’s work down to about half its length, made lots of changes, and published it as his own. It is utterly useless. The only way you’re going to get back to the original is either to read in the British Library Ms. Cotton Tiberius E x or use my edition of it, published in 1979, 2nd ed. 2 years later. On p. 192 is the mention of R.’s being “always so [affectionate and kind that] he was rather t [uxorious than otherwise, and at her death expressed it in his heavy mourning, causing very magnificent exequies to be prepared for her, interring her non cum minore honore quam reginam decuit, as the Prior of Croyland testifieth.]”. The ms. was badly damaged by fire. I filled in some missing bits conjecturally (pointed brackets here) and by reference to the earliest copy, B. L. ms. Egerton 2216, which, though it begins to show changes by George Buck (the younger), makes mostly stylistic changes and doesn’t alter content much. That’s the closest you’ll get to the original. You certainly won’t do so by consulting the 1617 reprint of another work by another author, the farthest version away from the original that it was possible to consult!

    1. Er, actually, I didn’t claim that at all. If you read the entire post, you’ll find that I quoted the version edited by you exactly as you quoted it in your comment: “George Buck, a seventeenth-century apologist for Richard, writes (in the edition of his book prepared by Arthur Kincaid) simply that Richard “was rather taken to be uxorious than otherwise, and at her death expressed it in his heavy mourning, causing very magnificent exequies to be prepared for her, interring her non cum minore honore quam reginat decuit, as the Prior of Croyland testifieth.”

      I consulted the corrupt version simply to see if Markham might have relied on it for his comment that Richard mourned at his wife’s funeral, since he obviously didn’t have access to your edited version of it.

  12. Arthur Kincaid states that “the 1617 edition is a reprint of the 1646 edition”–how does that work?

    1. Sorry – was typing quickly, and when I do that I’m sloppy! I meant the 1647 edition. Apologies to the original author for misunderstanding her reasons for consulting that thing. I don’t read carefully on computer and just got annoyed because EVERYONE, including Amazon, confuses the printed item with the original. After years of this just explode. (I also mis-cited my own 2nd ed., I think, which was 1982, not 1981.)

  13. This is very interesting – one of the things that fascinates me most about dealing with history is this “literary” aspect, how myths grow and gather accretions.

    I’d have been happier with your being a bit more careful about citing Buck, because the oddities of his text’s transmission deserve great care. “The original edition” may be misleading, suggesting that this preceded the text on which mine was based, whereas followed it by nearly 20 years and was issued by someone other than its author: George Buck, the great-nephew of the origina author, SIR George Buck, who was quite respectable and eminent. The younger Buck basically made hash of his great-uncle’s work, cut it to 2/5 its length, deleted the majority of its source references, and made the style more elaborate, then passed it off as his own (a fascinating tale in itself). The 1647 “edition people cite is in fact a later issue bound from sheets of the 1646 edition. I have no idea why people value this valueless work, but they do. The original, in a partially burnt manuscript, including many, many revisions on extra pieces of paper, above the lines, in the margins, badly needs editing, but it doesn’t need the sort of traducing the great-nephew gave it. But this is the text people have preferred, perhaps because it gives them the opportunity to denigrate and dismiss the autthor. For example, eminent historian A.R. Myers claimed repeatedly that no one had ever seen most of Buck’s sources (a bit dificult to prove what no one had ever seen, I should have thought). But I found most of them.

  14. Sorry – didn’t remember having answered this before, and should have read the other responses before replying. An edition normally is a separately, newly printed work, often incorporating new material. An “issue” is a newly issued batch of books printed from the same type-setting as the previous work is set from. In the case of the 1646 and 1647 usually called “editions” of the younger George Buck’s version of his great-uncle’s book, 1647 couldn’t possibly be more a reissue rather than an edition, since the copies dated 1647 are actually composed of leftover sheets of the original (only) edition, of 1646.

  15. I remember being terribly moved in my teens when reading in Philip Lindsay’s (deservedly long-forgotten) 1930s biography of Richard about this self-same weeping. Leaving aside the question of whether he would have attended the queen’s funeral it’ s interesting to note that on March 22nd, six days after the queen’s death and before her burial, he authorised an ambassador to travel to Portugal and offer marriage to the king of Portugal’s sister. (The Last days of Richard III, John Ashdown-Hill, History Press, 2011, p. 27, which references a document in the National Archives). Whatever Richard’s feelings about his wife (Ashdown-Hill suggests on no real evidence that they had a ‘close’ relationship), he was clearly no sentimentalist: he and his counsellors must on this evidence have discussed replacing the queen before she had died.

    1. Quite true! A bizarre number of Ricardians seem to think, against all evidence and practical considerations, that Richard would have never taken another queen.

  16. Richard may well have been deeply attached to his wife and genuinely grieved for her – but he was not some palely loitering Romantic era knight he was a king in a very tight place who cannot be blamed for looking out for a powerful alliance to replace Anne. That was politics and had nothing to do with private feelings.

    Personally I’ve always found it rather touching that Richard brought Anne down to share his coronation. Queens were not necessarily crowned so maybe he just wanted to share his big day with her.

  17. God forbid anyone ever sees the man as a human being who may have had true emotion at the death of his wife – closely following upon that of his son. He doesn’t have to be a saint – or a sinner. Just a human being. Do we have no empathy at all for someone who had such a tragic two years that we even deny him sorrow at the passing of a wife or son. Plus the view of death was different in medieval times – people were seen as ascending to a better life – not just being consigned to dust. Yet still – basic human emotion would render any human soul sadness and an experience of loss at the passing of one who they had shared their life with. What makes this man so different that we deny him even this?

    1. boswellbaxter

      Read the last paragraph: “The fact that there’s no contemporary evidence that Richard attended Anne’s funeral, wept for her there, and shut himself up for three days doesn’t, of course, mean that he didn’t mourn her . . . “

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