Was Edward, Earl of Warwick Locked in the Tower?

Some time back, I wrote a post about the claim that Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, had mistreated his ward, Edward, Earl of Warwick, causing him to become mentally retarded. The upshot of the post was that there’s no evidence that any of Warwick’s guardians mistreated him before he had the misfortune to be imprisoned by Henry VII in the Tower, where he spent the rest of his life before being executed in 1499 at age 24.

Warwick’s story–his father, George, Duke of Clarence, was executed at Edward IV’s orders in 1478–is undoubtedly a tragic one. Yet as I was reminded on an Amazon forum the other day, some modern admirers of Richard III have not only claimed, without any supporting evidence, that Dorset mistreated his ward, but have also alleged, again without any evidence, that Warwick was imprisoned by Dorset (the eldest son of Elizabeth Woodville by her first marriage) before being liberated by Richard III.

Audrey Williamson in The Mystery of the Princes, for instance, writes that Dorset kept “the boy in safe custody, in the Tower” and later that it was “Dorset . . . who kept the ill-starred Warwick immured in the Tower.” Though Williamson’s book does contain references, she doesn’t cite any for her claim that Dorset (whose conduct, naturally, is contrasted with that of the saintly Richard) locked Warwick in the Tower.

Bertram Fields in Royal Blood also repeats the story of Warwick’s imprisonment: “Clarence’s son, Warwick, had also lived in the Tower after his father’s attainder in 1478, having been ordered by Edward IV to remain there in the custody of the marquess of Dorset” (p. 123). Though the publisher of Royal Blood omitted the references the author supplied, they can be found at the Richard III Society’s American branch website. The notes for the page on which this statement appears, however, contain no citation to support Fields’ statement about Warwick.

Williamson’s and Fields’ unsourced statements about Dorset locking Warwick in the Tower likely originate with Clements Markham, who wrote a book in defense of Richard III in 1906. Markham writes that Richard “liberated [Warwick] from durance in the Tower, where he had been kept by the Marquis of Dorset as his ward, ever since the death of his father Clarence.” Markham cites no evidence for his statement. (In Markham’s favor, by the way, he writes rather chivalrously of Margaret of Anjou, which is rare among Ricardian writers.)

Modern academic historians, by contrast, offer no support for the notion that Dorset imprisoned Warwick in the Tower. Christine Carpenter in her Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on Warwick makes no reference to Warwick’s being imprisoned in the Tower prior to Henry VII’s reign. Cora Scofield, whose biography of Edward IV is unsurpassed in its detail, makes no mention of Warwick’s being in the Tower, either as a prisoner or as a resident, although she did find a reference to one of the boy’s attendants, Agnes Stanley. Charles Ross in his biography of Edward IV mentions only that Dorset was given the wardship and marriage of Warwick. Hazel Pierce in her biography of Warwick’s sister, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, likewise does not state that Dorset imprisoned either Warwick or his sister. Paul Murray Kendall, who was not at all inclined to miss an opportunity at taking a swipe at the Woodvilles, does not claim they incarcerated Warwick. He simply writes that the boy was brought “up from the country” to join Richard’s household when he took power.

What do contemporary sources say about Warwick’s whereabouts? Mancini writes that about the same time Richard, Duke of Gloucester, took Richard, Duke of York, out of sanctuary, he “gave orders that the son of the duke of Clarence, his other brother, then a boy of ten years old, should come to the city: and commanded that the lad should be kept in confinement in the household of his wife.” If Edward was already a prisoner in the Tower before this time, it’s odd that Mancini would write that he was brought to the city.

In fact, Edward IV’s wardrobe accounts for 1480 suggest that far from being immured in the Tower, Warwick was being handsomely outfitted, at least as far as his feet were concerned:

To th’Erle of Warrewyk to have for his were and use, iiij peire of shoon double soled and a peire of shoon of Spaynyssh leder sengle soled, by vertue of a warrant undre the Kinges signe manuelle and signet bering date the second day of Juyn in the xx{ti} yere of the moost noble reigne of our said Souverain Lorde the King,
Shoon: iiij paire double soled; a pair of Spaynyssh leder sengle soled.

To th’Erle of Warrewyk to have of the yifte of oure said Souverain Lorde the Kyng for his use and were, a peire of shoon sengle soled of blue leder; a paire of shoon of Spaynyssh leder; a paire of botews of tawny Spaynyssh leder; and ij paire shoon sengle soled; and to Sir William A Parre Knyght to have of the yift of oure said Souverain Lorde the King for covering of his brygandyns, iij yerdes and iij quarters of crymysyn cloth of gold uppon satin grounde; and to the Maister of the Kinges Barge ayenst the commyng of the righte high and right noble Princesse Lady Margarete the Duchesse of Bourgoingne suster unto our saide Souverain Lorde the Kyng, a gowne of blac chamelet, by vertue of a warrant undre the Kynges signet and signe manuelle bering date the xxiiij{ti} day of Juylle in the xx{ti} yere of the moost noble reigne of oure said Souverain Lord the Kyng unto the saide Piers Courteys for deliveree of the said stuff directe, Cremysyn clothe of gold the grounde satyn, iij yerdes iij quarters; chamelet, ix yerdes di’; Shoon: j paire sengle of blue leder; a paire of Spaynyssh leder sengle soled; ij paire blac; Botews, j paire of tawny Spaynyssh leder.

Indeed, the latter entry suggests that little Warwick was being dressed up to see his aunt Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, who was soon to visit England.

Finally, contrary to the notion that Warwick was in Dorset’s custody immediately after the death of Clarence, Dorset was not granted Warwick’s wardship and marriage until September 16, 1480, more than two years after Clarence’s execution. You can find the grant on page 212 of the Calendar of the Patent Rolls, 1476-1485, which is on the Internet Archive and Google Books. (Note also that Dorset paid for the wardship.)

Grant to the king’s kinsman Thomas, marquess of Dorset, for the sum of 2,000£. paid by him to the king, of the custody of the lordship or manor of Ryngwood, co. Southampton, the lordship or manor of Canford with its members, co. Dorset, the lordship or manor of Dunyate with Dunpole with its members and the lordship or manor of Yarlyngton and Shipton, co. Somerset, the lordship or manor of Ambresbury and the hundred of Ambresbury, Wynterbourne and Alleworthbury, co. Wilts, the borough, town, hundred and liberty of Teukesbury, the lordship, manor or hundred of King’s Barton by Bristol alias Barton Bristol and the great court of Bristol alias the great court of the honour of Gloucester by Bristol called Earles Court, co Gloucester, and the lordship or manor of Busheley, co. Worcester, with knights’ fees, advowsons, wards, marriages, reliefs, escheats, courts, leets, views of frank-pledge, fairs, markets, parks, forests, launds, chaces, warrens, waters, fisheries, liberties, franchises, profits and other commodities from Easter last during the minority of Edward son and heir of Isabel late the wife of George, duke of Clarence, and the custody and marriage of the latter without disparagement, and so from heir to heir, without rendering anything to the king until he shall be fully satisfied of the said sum, finding a competent sustenance for the said Edward. By p.s.

Nothing I’ve found indicates where Dorset lodged his ward after obtaining his custody in 1480, but guardians often raised wards in their own households, and it’s quite likely that Dorset followed this practice. It’s also likely that Dorset planned to marry Warwick to one of his own daughters (he eventually had eight daughters by his second wife, Cecily Bonville).

So for the story that Dorset imprisoned his ward, we have only the statements of three twentieth-century writers, none of whom cite a supporting source and all of whom are biased heavily in favor of Richard III and against the Woodvilles. Not, I think, the most reliable accounts–but, sadly, those modern writers who are hostile to the Woodvilles have seldom been held by Richard III’s admirers to the same standard of accountability and accuracy as those who are hostile to Richard III.

10 thoughts on “Was Edward, Earl of Warwick Locked in the Tower?”

  1. It is interesting to wonder where these modern day writers came up with these stories and felt they were truthful enough to deserve publication in their books. Of course, the internet has certainly made it easier for the dissemination of such documents as the patent rolls giving people the opportunity to learn the truth. In any event, thanks for sharing these with us!

  2. As a somewhat lapsed member of the Richard III Society, I'm constantly amazed by what new members tell me: "We read a novel and were really moved etc etc etc". Ok, I read the Holy Book (Daughter of Time) and We Speak No Treason when I was about 13 and they were enormous influences on me, but I've moved onto the hard stuff since then. I really wish that more people did (on both sides of the debate). The Us=Good, Them=Bad formula is well past its used by date.

  3. According to Agnes
    Strickland 'Queens of England' the young Warwick spent his early life until the death of his uncle Edward IV at Shene Palace with his cousins. Quite what happened then I'm not sure but apparently he was at Sheriff Hutton the same time as his cousin EOY.

    What's more Henry VII didn't send him to the Tower immediately. At first he was lodged in Coldharbour House the London house of Margaret Beaufort who was for a while his guardian.

    As for Fields believe it or not he states that Edward IV did not annouce his secret marriage until 1465. I thought it happened around Michaelmas 1464.

    According to Muriel Smith in her article on Eleanor Butler which also dumps on the Wydevilles 'It was Edward's duty to surround himself with the Nevilles' What just his Ma's relations and none of his Pa's? What does she mean 'That it was his duty to be a nepotist? Doh! Given that the rapacious and power-hungry Nevilles make even the Wydevilles look like saints definitely not. Imagine the furore if HM informed the PM that only members of the Royal family could serve as her counselors.

    I wonder what MS would say if I were to suggest that it was Warwick aka Kingmaker that put the boot into that little romance. What allow her mother to have the last laugh? Perish the thought. And why has nobody until now asked the question why was Warwick apparently left out of the loop?

    As for the Holy Book (DOT) you should hear what a real life Scotland Yard detective has to say about it. Even a half decent lawyer could blow the 'evidence' right out of the water.

    Like what real evidence do the RGs have? Subjected to the acid test – logic and in the case of that whodunit logistics – it soon falls apart. Even the claim of fraternal loyalty has now bitten the dust. And here's another 'why didn't the dog bark in the night' question if he was that trustworthy why didn't Edward IV name him as Regent as Henry V did with his brother John of Bedford? Protector – that's a bit of a downer assuming that there was a codicil and there's no evidence there was, only a claim that there was.

    This is really what gets me about many historians particuarly the RGs, the lack of curiosity and the lack of logic. Some of the things they claim are so illogical as to border on insanity. A propos insanity which RG was it who was removed from his job on that ground?

  4. Couple of points to the last comment. I have a theory about the secret marriage and why it was revealed when it was – just as the French marriage was starting to look like a done deal – and that's kind of the key – the French marriage was starting to look like a done deal – and the marriage to EW was revealed only when Warwick needed to know about it. Can you imagine the scene at Westminster when a French princess was informed that her marriage was invalid and her children illegitimate? And there'd have been no room for doubt – witnesses and all that. As to why Gloucester wasn't named regent – EV was nearly grown, it was only going to be a few years that he'd need that kind of support, a protectorship was all that was needed; there's also the precedent of their father, who wasn't named regent during H6's bouts of illness, because parliament was very reluctant to name anyone regent, including the queen. Thirdly, were the Bourchiers not involved at all in Edward IV's life and rein? They were pretty much the only paternal relatives he had. (Ok, they weren't as involved as the Nevills, but it's hard to find a parallel for them, though people in quiet desperation have tried to set the Wydevilles up as some kind of check or rival family – not a snowball's chance.) Lastly, DoT got a lot of people thinking; my argument is that it wasn't an end point for me and shouldn't be for anyone. (Kind of agreeing with the post, really…)

  5. I can never get enough of this time period because there are so many stories and you always wonder about the source and the truth behind the so-called facts. Great post!

  6. Looks like Dorset can join the group of Why Do Historians and Writers Hate Us So Much That They Don't Bother To Check The Facts-group. Edward II is chairman of that one, and Varus applied for a membership as well. 😉

  7. To be fair perhaps with some of them it’s not so much not bothering to check as the checking turns out to be a real bother especially if the text is not in English. As a linguist I’m not too bothered but I have to concede even wading through Fabyan’s ‘Great Chronicle’ was a bit of a pain. It’s a pity that so much available information is not even in English never mind readable English so a big thanks to the guys from the Public Records Office who did such sterling work in the matter of the Calendar Rolls and other state papers.

    And perhaps some of them might care to start with Keith Dockray’s 2003 ‘Richard III’ my find of the week described in the BL catalogue as a source book. Only 24 pages long but beautifully written and clearly and impartially setting out the opposing views, a real nugget of pure gold amongst so much dross. His Edward IV is an excellent read too so next week I’m checking out his Henry VI & MoA and his editing of another find Ralph Alan Griffiths who has also written some interesting books on the 15h century

    I note KD’s take on Elizabeth 1 is only 15 pages long. Would there were more like him. Sigh.

  8. Trish, I'll be willing to cut fiction writers some slack re. languages, but not non fiction writers. If you want to write about a topic where half of the sources are written in some obscure language long dead, learn that language. You can't get away with ignoring the non-translated texts in the academic world, and the same responsibility should apply to popular non fiction – with the one difference that you don't quote tons of obscure language in the footnotes. 😉

    And some writers don't even bother to check facts avaliable in English because they have An Idea.

  9. Susan Higginbotham

    Elizabeth, thanks! (By the way, I've tried to comment on your blog, but it won't let me.)

    Ragged Staff, agreed!

    Kathryn, thanks!

    Trish, I saw that in Strickland–though I've found that she can come up with some weird things.

    Ragged Staff, I'd love to know whether Richard would have still claimed that there was a precontract with Eleanor Talbot had Edward IV's widow been a foreign princess instead of Elizabeth Woodville.

    Meghan, thanks!

    Gabriele, agreed on all counts! On another blog, I saw an author of a popular nonfiction book excuse herself for making certain errors because she wasn't in the UK and didn't have access to all of the relevant sources. But why presume to write nonfiction if one can't check one's facts?

    Trish, I have the Dockray sourcebooks–quite helpful.

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