14. Apr, 2017

Remembering Edward of Middleham

I hate unfinished business, and some recent correspondence with my friend A J Hibbard has reminded me of two articles from a series of four I started in 2015 and never finished. I had decided that too many Ricardian dates had been taken for granted without adequate proof, so I began by investigating the following four:

  *  The marriage of Richard and Anne Neville                                                                           *  The birth of Edward of Middleham                                                                                       *  The death of Edward of Middleham                                                                                      *  The marriage of Anne Neville and the Lancastrian Prince of Wales

I mentioned my research to Marie Barnfield and she offered some very helpful insights, so rather than merely acknowledging her assistance I suggested she should join me as co-author. Marie’s involvement has not worked out as I had hoped, but at least we eventually got the first two of these articles into print in the Ricardian Bulletin in 2016 (September and December issues).

I’ll return later to Anne and the Prince of Wales. Today being Good Friday, I want to discuss the death of Edward of Middleham, whose short life was the subject of one of my illustrated talks at the 2016 Middleham Festival. The circumstances of his death, funerary arrangements and tomb are another matter. Here I am just summarizing the question of the date, for which I’m pleased to say my advice was taken by English Heritage to commemorate it at Easter, rather than 9 April, in the plans to fly their flag at half-mast at Middleham Castle. In due course I’ll follow this up with a longer piece on this website under ‘Ricardian Topics’, citing more detailed evidence.

I will mention three references here which should be carefully compared. The first is the well known entry in the Crowland Chronicle which states that he died in April 1484, ‘on a day not far off King Edward’s anniversary’. The mention of ‘anniversary’ has led to the assumption, by even the most well-read Ricardian scholars, that Edward died exactly a year – to the day! – after his godfather Edward IV died on 9 April 1483. Not only is this NOT what the chronicler wrote; it represents only one of various possible anniversaries.

Second, a much more specific date is given by the Warwickshire priest John Rous. This chronicler’s political credibility is highly suspect, having praised Richard III during his reign and attacked him after his defeat; but in plain recitals of facts and dates his record can prove useful. Rous wrote that young Edward died ‘at Easter-time’ (tempore Paschali). Easter Day in 1484 fell on 18 April.

Compare this with my third reference: the recorded fact that it was not until Tuesday 27 April that Richard left for the North after receiving the terrible news while he was at Nottingham Castle. In my longer article I will deal with possible reasons which might have caused delay, but the distance from Middleham to Nottingham is not one of them: this could have been traversed within a day’s ride. Indeed there is nothing to explain the gap of more than a fortnight from the commonly assumed date of Edward’s death on 9 April until Richard is known to have left Nottingham on 27 April.

It is particularly poignant to remember this sad anniversary, with his parents driven almost mad with grief, when Easter in 2017 falls on dates so close to little Edward’s death.