The Second Wars of the Roses: A Solution at Last to the Murders of the Princes in the Tower... Part 2
The Real Villain Was An Insider, Virtually Invisible
Edward IV had died, and the Woodvilles began preparing for the journey of the boy king, Edward V, from the North where he had resided with his maternal uncle, Anthony, Lord Rivers. Enroute to London, they were met by Richard of Gloucester's party. Lord Rivers was also accompanied by Lord Grey, half brother of the young king. Everyone had been friendly at supper, but, during the night, as they slept, they were overcome by Richard's men, who imprisoned, then executed them on charges of treason. What charges, made by who? Certainly, by someone Richard of Gloucester trusted, someone who had his ear... and, had the Woodville's ear as well. Someone who was on the periphery, who, for all intents and purposes, was in a position to know all the players, and saw himself as the Game Master, and, almost succeeded in becoming King of England.
Henry Tudor Y Mab Darogan
The First Wars of the Roses Had Decimated the Lancasters and the Yorks
The Wars of the Roses had killed almost everyone who had a place in the Line of Succession. The Lancasters had lost so many, that the unknown Henry Tudor had risen in the ranks by each successive loss. This was unprecedented. Henry Tudor would have remained a virtual unknown, if not for the death of Edward IV, and the disappearance of the 'Princes in the Tower,' Edward V, and his younger brother, Richard of Shrewsbury. The ranks of the Yorks had been drastically reduced by the Wars of the Roses, and, by the infighting between the three York brothers that remained standing. By the time Edward IV died, only one brother remained, the youngest one, Richard of Gloucester. As long as Edward IV lived, he could mediate between the opposing factions. Aware that he was dying, Edward IV tried to bring his family together, his brother, Richard, and his wife, and her family, the Woodvilles. Edward knew all the principles involved, and sought a balance of power. Richard, as Lord Protector and Regent of Edward V and his brother, Richard. Everyone seemed to feel that a truce had been made, Obviously, the Woodvilles did not feel threatened when they first met Richard of Gloucester on their way to London. But Richard III believed the Woodvilles would violate the truce formed by Edward IV, because a reliable source told him so.
Richard of Shrewsbury and Edward V
Edward V and Richard of York
Where the Children's Bodies Were Buried
Richard of York, Ten Years Old
House of York
The House of Lancaster, the Red Rose
The House of Lancaster does not get its name from John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster. John of Gaunt, the third son of Edward III, married Blanche of Lancaster. The original creation of the House of Lancaster occurred when Henry III, son of the infamous John, Lackland, King of England, created the Earldom of Lancaster for his son, Edmund Crouchback. (Most people remember John Lackland as the signer of the Magna Carta)
The House of Beaufort does get the origin of its name from John of Gaunt. The Beauforts were the second family of John of Gaunt, by his mistress, Kathryn Swynfort. People persist in calling these children, illegitimate. According to the mores of their time, once a man married the mother of his children, they became legitimate. Additionally, the Pope declared the children legitimate, and, lastly, they were further legitimatized by King Richard II. When John of Gaunt's first born legitimate son, Henry of Bolingbroke, usurped the throne from Richard II, he issued the provision that his illegitimate siblings had no right to the throne. Any king after that could repeal it or leave it standing. An example of that would be when a noble family was attainted, deprived of their titles and their property by one ruling faction. A later monarch could simply reverse the actions of the previous monarch.
Henry Tudor stepped out of relative obscurity in the vacuum created in the 'cousin's war' commonly known to us as the "Wars of the Roses". He seemed to be the last possible candidate from the Beaufort descent from John of Gaunt. The preferred descent had been from the legally born, Lancaster line.
Who Could Get the Key?
Cardinal Thomas Bourchier
Henry Stafford, and Buckingham's Rebellion
Henry Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham, was descended from another Margaret Beaufort, not the same Margaret Beaufort as Henry Tudor's mother. His exact lineage as primarily associated with the Beaufort line, as the historic records still indicate today. As such, his claim would have been comparable to that of Henry Tudor, as far as the Line of Succession as concerned. Henry Stafford was, that we would consider today, a "hanger on"... On the periphery of the "movers and shakers" at the time. He managed to keep a low profile. The Woodvilles were his in-laws, as he had been married as a boy to Elizabeth Woodville's sister, Katherine. Stafford did not care for his in-laws, and felt he had been forced to marry someone "beneath" him. Elizabeth Woodville was Edward IV's wife and the mother of Edward V and his siblings. As such, she should have been deemed an excellent, prestigious match. But to Henry Stafford, they were common and elevated beyond their proper place in the Norman Plantagenet hierarchy. Henry Stafford was a nephew of Cardinal Thomas Bourchier, who, in his eighties, was convinced by Henry Stafford and Richard III that the two princes would come to no harm under Richard III's protection. Henry Stafford was also related to Katherine Neville, wife of William, Lord Hastings, the first public beheading victim of Richard III. It happened so swiftly, that it was over before anyone had a chance to register more than the fact that poor Hastings, a friend of Richard's, and someone who supported Richard and the boy King Edward V, had been accused of treason then dragged outside and executed. (Richard assured Hastings widow that she would be under his protection after he killed her husband. Since Richard's nephews were also under his protection, that promise could not have meant much to the widow.) Stafford spoke privately to Richard, and, then, Hastings was eliminated without evidence, without a trial, the same as Lord Rivers, Richard Grey, and Lord Vaughn were beheaded without due process of English law.
Henry Stafford would have known all this because he was with Richard of Gloucester when they intercepted the unsuspecting party of escorts to Edward V. It was Henry Stafford who rode with the prisoners to Pontfract Castle where they were executed and the bodies looted. Stafford, married to a Woodville, who was in a position to learn the plans of bringing the young king to London. Stafford, related to William Hastings through Hastings wife, Stafford, a confidante of Richard of Gloucester, who could whisper in his ear of plots that only existed in Stafford's imagination...Stafford, who believed that he was robbed of his birthright. So who was Stafford, really? In his own mind, probably the rightful king, if not for an accident of birth... Stafford was a Lancastrian, he was descended from the youngest son of Edward III, the fourteenth child, and the fifth son to survive to adulthood. On the Beaufort side, he was descended from the youngest child of John of Gaunt, a daughter, and descended from John Beaufort, first Marquess of Somerset. Stafford was also descended from the line of Lionel of Antwerp, through the Mortimers And who were the Woodvilles? Nobodies. Henry Stafford did not escape being considered as one of the possible murderers of the Princes in the Tower, but only as a henchman of Richard III. After all, Richard had his nephews under lock and key in the fortress we know as the Tower of London. Who else, besides Richard III had the authority to get the key? Possibly the Lord High Constable of England. And, who, would you suppose held that title? None other than Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.
Margaret Beaufort, Mother of Henry Tudor
Choosing Sides in Second Wars of the Roses
Did Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, orchestrate this whole plot? Did Stafford whisper in Hastings and Richard's ear that the Woodvilles were plotting to oust Richard as Lord Protector? If this was true, would the Woodvilles had been so trusting when they met Richard's party? What could Stafford have whispered in Richard's ear before William Hastings was beheaded? That Hastings was siding with the Woodvilles? All these plots being implemented, and who was the informant?
This is, after all, a supposition. But, if I had to choose who was most capable of such a crime, and my only choices were Henry Tudor, Richard III, and Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, my vote would be Henry Stafford.
Suppose everything was exactly as the historical record states. Edward IV created a truce between his wife and his brother. Richard III had every intention to carry out his duties, the Woodvilles had every intention to follow Edward IV intentions, and not interfere with Richard's guardianship. The Woodvilles were not skulking into London, they were not shocked or alarmed to see Richard, they shared a dinner and then retired to their beds. Who was present, who accompanied Richard? Henry Stafford. Richard took the young king to London. Stafford took the Woodvilles to Pontefract Castle, had the Woodvilles executed. One man was allowed to live and tell the story. A witness that could swear that Richard had ordered their execution... If Richard had intended to execute them, why didn't he do it close to where they were arrested? Why transport them to Pontefract Castle? Why leave a witness? Why not kill them all? If Henry Stafford said that Richard ordered their deaths, who would doubt that?
Who told Hastings that the Woodvilles were planning a coup? Henry Stafford. Who told Richard that Hastings was going over to the Woodville side? Henry Stafford. Who spread the rumor that the boys had been murdered in their beds as they slept? Henry Stafford. Who told that story to Henry Tudor? Henry Stafford. Suppose Henry Tudor believed that Richard III had murdered his nephews, suppose Rhys ap Thomas believed it, and Lord Stanley, and the others, acting with righteous anger to overthrow a man who they believed was a villain, but one who may have been innocent, but his reputation had been vilified.
Richard comes back to London and finds his nephews gone. Stafford has allowed everyone to believe he was acting under orders from Richard, so what can Richard do? Where was Stafford? Before Richard got back to London, Stafford was gone. Was the bounty on Stafford's head because he was a traitor, or because Stafford had murdered Richard's nephews?
Buckingham's Rebellion, in 1483, was to have joined forces with Henry Tudor and his men, together, they would have been a formidable force against that of Richard III. And, when it was over, and Richard III was defeated, Henry Stafford would be in an excellent position to claim the throne as a true Lancaster, holding a better claim in the Line of Succession than Henry Tudor, who, after all, was some nobody Welshman. It was a very devious plan, and it might have succeeded, if not for a storm that prevented Henry Tudor's forces from landing in England, Left to his own devices, Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, ran and hid. Since Richard III had a bounty on Stafford's head, he was soon betrayed, as he had betrayed his own friends and his own family. He was beheaded on November 2, 1483.