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Sunday, February 28, 2010

“Those Other Guys” in Richard III: Who Supported Whom?

During the Wars of the Roses, loyalty was more of a suggestion than a rule. Peers switched sides all the time, and it becomes incredibly difficult to keep up with which Dukes and Earls supported with Kings and rebels when. In his Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses, John A. Wagner has a nifty chart that breaks it all down. However, in order to make things even simpler, here are key supports of Henry VII and Richard III during the final stage of the Wars of the Roses:

Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond and later Henry VII: Margaret Beaufort, Marquis of Dorset, John Morton/Bishop of Ely, Duke of Buckingham (later), Earl of Derby, Sir William Stanley, Christopher Urstwick, Earl of Oxford, Bishop of Salisbury, Sir James Blunt, Sir William Brandon, and Sir Walter Herbert.

Richard III: Sir Robert Brackenbury, Sir William Catesby, Earl of Kent, Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Surrey, Viscount Lovell, Duchess of Burgundy, Earl of Northumberland, Duke of Suffolk, Duke of Lincoln, Sir Richard Ratcliffe, Duke of Buckingham (earlier), and Sir James Tyrell.

The Battle of Bosworth.

Edward’s supporters included Archbishop of York, Sir Thomas Vaughn, Earl Rivers and Lord Hastings.

Check of the "Story of London" website for information about the Lord Mayor.

The Lancastrians:

Young Henry Tudor.

Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, King Henry VII was the last surviving Lancastrian heir as his father, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, was Henry VI’s half brother while his mother, Margaret Beaufort, was the king’s cousin. His father died just three months before he was born, while his mother was only about to turn fourteen. Like Richard, he spent his childhood under the care of a guardian, his uncle Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, in Wales. He was then passed onto William Herbert, who was the Yorkist Welch lieutenant, when Edward IV seized Wales and Pembroke fled. Herbert wanted Richmond to marry one of his daughters, having paid off the king, but his execution by Warwick in 1469 after the Battle of Edgecote threw a wrench into his plans. Richmond found himself once again in the hands of his uncle, who reconquered Wales while Henry VI was replaced on the throne. It is said that Henry VI in fact recognized Richmond as the future Lancastrian savior when Richmond came to court, even though there were several other prospective heirs alive at the time. Most likely, this is a piece of clever Tudor propaganda.

Henry VII.

But in 1471, when Somerset, Prince Edward and Henry VI all died, Richmond could claim the throne. He fled with Pembroke to avoid persecution by Edward IV, only to become political pawns in Brittany. For about ten years various attempts were made to capture Richmond, with little success. Richard’s usurpation, however, made Richmond look to the crown. He tried to support Buckingham’s Rebellion, but once again fled when that failed. From Brittany to France to Wales, Richmond eventually collected an army of about 2,000 French and Scottish soldiers and 600 Englishmen, not including the various Lancastrians and Yorkist deserters he picked up along the way into England. August 22, 1485, he defeated Richard on Bosworth Field and was crowned Henry VI. He married Elizabeth of York the following year, symbolically ending the Wars of the Roses, although he was not finished fighting off Yorkist rebels. Lambert Simnel claimed to be the last surviving Yorkist with a claim to the throne, but was imprisoned in 1485 and finally executed in 1499. Simnel had in fact found another York imposter, who claimed to be the surviving “little prince” Richard, Duke of York, and made an escape attempt.

Henry VII's Coat of Arms.

The Tudor Myth has certainly glossed over the fact that Henry VII was not always popular. Early on, he frequently dealt with uprisings over tax increases when he needed funds for invading Scotland. When he wasn’t making political matches for his sons, he was trying to make them for himself when his wife died in 1503. What’s more, Henry hoarded massive amounts of money, and was the “richest prince in Christendom” when he died (Jokinen). However, he also spent a lot of money on hospitals and cathedrals, and his reign was a relatively peaceful one. However, it is important to keep in mind that Richmond was in as much need as any king ever is of a devilish enemy and a good mythical history.

The Tudor Rose, combining the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York.

John Morton, Bishop of Ely, was a leader of the Lancastrian opposition to Richard III and is believed to have been a principle source for Sir Thomas More’s chronicle. Morton was an Oxford law student who rose to prominent religious rank through his patron the Archbishop of Canterbury and was a member of Henry VI’s council. Morton supported Margaret of Anjou during the battles of 1461, particularly St. Albans. He joined the Lancastrian royal family in Scotland when Edward defeated them at Towton, and in 1463 went into exile with Margaret in France where he had a hand in the alliance made between her and Warwick. Morton finally submitted to Edward’s royal service in 1471 after the battle of Tewkesbury and became a key diplomat abroad, like during the Treaty of Picquigny in 1475, a royal councilor and the Bishop of Ely. Morton was one of the peers arrested by Richard in 1483 and placed under Buckingham’s custody because he was openly loyal to Edward V. It is believed that Morton had to do with Buckingham’s change of heart that led to his Rebellion. When that failed, he fled to Richmond in France, returning as one of Henry VII’s chief councilors. He went on to gain the titles of Archbishop of Canterbury, Chancellor, and Cardinal. In the 1490s, Sir Thomas More was thought to have served in Morton’s household, making Morton an important historical source of information just before his death in 1500.

John de Vere, Earl of Oxford was a staunch Lancastrian, who earned his title after his father and older brother were executed by Edward IV for their plot to invade, known as the Oxford Conspiracy of 1462. He was confined to the Tower in 1468 for a Lancastrian plot of his own, and he fled with Warwick in support of his attempt to reinstate Henry VI. He sought revenge on his family while Henry was back, executing their killer John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester as Constable of England. He fled to France when Edward IV regained the throne, was attainted and sent to prison at Calais until he managed to escape just in time to aid Richmond in the Battle of Bosworth, commanding the right wing of his army. It was Oxford’s successful first move that prompted Richard to charge the Tudor forces and consequently, caused Stanley to side with Richmond. He was well rewarded under Henry VII, and aided him again when the Yorkists tried to revolt in 1487. It was Oxford who condemned the last direct male Yorkist heir to death in 1499, before dying in 1513.

The Yorkists:

Sir Robert Brackenbury was from a family of Durham’s minor gentry and became the treasurer of Richard, Duke of Gloucester’s household in 1476. He was granted a lifetime appointment as Constable of the Tower of London when Richard took the throne and he remained a loyal supporter until his death at the Battle of Bosworth. Brackenbury was from the north, but was awarded with considerable landholdings in the south in Kent, such as the estates of the executed Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers. He was eventually knighted and became the sheriff of Kent among other duties poured on him by the king, and he became one of Richard’s most wealthy and rewarded officers. Although it is uncertain whether Brackenbury was actually aware of the plot to murder the princes, he was, nonetheless, their guardian when they arrived at the Tower in 1483.

John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, stayed loyal to Edward IV and the House of York after Richard III came to power. He came from Suffolk, and was a steadfast Yorkist, knighted for his service at Towton and made the first Yorkist sheriff of Norfolk. He was even a commander against Warwick in 1470. He helped Edward at Barnet and Tewkesbury and became deputy at Calais under Lord Hastings. His foreign affairs led him to France in 1475, where he became a hostage in negotiations with Louis XI. Sadly, Norfolk was badly abused by his king when Edward denied his inheritance of the late Duke of Norfolk, John Mowbray’s title when Anne Mowbray died at the age of nine. Anne, who was the child bride of Richard, Duke of York, had brought her father’s inheritance with her, and Edward was unwilling to let go of it. But, when Edward died in 1483, Norfolk received his dukedom and supported Richard III. Under Richard, he received many offices and awards for his loyalty and support during Buckingham’s Rebellion. Norfolk died at Bosworth and was attainted by Henry VII, although his son, Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, was eventually able to reverse it.


Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby was consistently neutral throughout the Wars of the Roses, which ultimately ensured his survival. For example, in 1459 when Stanley had raised an army for Margaret of Anjou he also promised his support to his father-in-law Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, who was Margaret’s Yorkist enemy. When the forces met at Blore Heath, Stanley stayed out of it altogether. He was later accused of treason by the Lancastrian government, but was forgiven when he fought for Henry VI at Northampton, 1460. But, Stanley’s loyalties were by no means tied to Lancaster, and he received many rewards from Edward IV. The contradictions continued, as Stanley both ignored Warwick’s call for help overthrowing Edward but then supported Henry VI during his readeption, only to be again promoted under the Yorkist king to lord steward and royal councilor! Stanley fought with Edward in France and Richard in Scotland.

Stanley Coat of Arms.

He was also one of the nobles arrested by Richard while meeting in the Tower June 13, 1483. Stanley was placed under house arrest and escaped in time for the coronation. Hastings, of course, was not so lucky. Although Stanley was married to Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, he seems to have had little to do with her plots to place her son on the throne. Stanley came under Richard’s suspicions, however, when he was gone from court a little too long, and Richard took Stanley’s son, Lord Strange, hostage. Stanley remained neutral at Bosworth while his brother’s army made the decisive choice to aid Richmond. Lord Strange survived when nobody bothered to carry out Richard’s death sentence. It was 1485 that Stanley was made Earl of Derby under Henry VII and received many attainted Yorkist lands. Stanley was neutral to the end, while his brother was sentenced to death for treason.

Effigies of Stanley and his wife.

Thomas Bourchier, Cardinal and Archbishop of Canterbury, was Buckingham’s half-brother and a distant descendant of Edward III. “As a third son, he was destined for an ecclesiastical career,” moving through the ranks until he became Archbishop of Canterbury under the Protectorate of Richard of York (35). He was favored by both Richard of York and Henry VI, but his attempts to make peace both at the Battle of St. Albans in 1455 and again during Henry’s Love-Day accords were unsuccessful. He remained loyal to Henry VI when he was replaced on the throne and once again tried to facilitate a peace accord to no avail. Bourchier was a member of the Parliament that disinherited the Lancastrian Prince Edward, and he ultimately agreed to Edward IV’s succession, crowning him in 1465. He helped to support his king in 1471 against Warwick and Clarence’s rebellion, when he became a Cardinal. It was Bourchier who persuaded Queen Elizabeth much later to let her son Richard, Duke of York join his brother Edward in the Tower. Historians speculate that he was probably not involved in the murder plot and loathe to crown Richard III shortly after. Of course, he almost immediately found himself placing the crown on the head of Henry VII in October 1485, dying just a few months later after a dutiful life of service.

The Suffolk Coat of Arms.


Jokinen, Anniina. “England Under the Tudors: King Henry VII of England.” Luminarium: Encyclopedia Project. 2009. Web. Accessed 2-26-10. <>.

John A. Wagner’s Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses, ABC-CLIO, 2001.

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