The Real Game of Thrones — Wars of the Roses Part II: The Bleeding Rose

For part i click here.

After Henry VI had been deposed as King of England, the conqueror Edward IV moved to secure his throne and remove any remaining challenges to his power.  After a series a successful battles against the House of Lancaster, many Lancastrians had been killed in battle.  Edward IV intended to completely exterminate the Lancastrian line.  After the Battle of Tewkesbury, the final and decisive victory against the House of Lancaster, many Lancastrians sought sanctuary in Tewkesbury Abbey.  Under the rules of sanctuary those seeking refuge within a church or monastery cannot be harmed or arrested on pain of excommunication.  After the battle Edward entered the Abbey and prayed as the Lancastrians watched, wondering if he would honor the rules of sanctuary.  He then announced that they were pardoned, and could leave the abbey without threat or arrest. Two days later, Edward’s men stormed the Abbey and grabbed all male Lancastrians. They were dragged to Tewkesbury’s town square and immediately beheaded.  

After the incident at Tewkesbury, most of the Lancastrian line was extinguished.  Others were arrested and either executed or imprisoned. Only one Lancastrian, a minor noble named Henry Tudor, had managed to escape the wrath of Edward IV.  At the warning of his mother Margaret Beaufort, he quickly left the country and went into exile in France.   Although the Lancastrian line was all but extinct, the threats to Edward’s rule did not come to an end.  In fact the most serious threat came from within the family.  Edward had two younger brothers, George the Duke of Clarence and Richard the Duke of Glouchester.

The Duke of Clarence was disgruntled with Edward and his regime.  Being Edward’s younger brother Clarence expected that he would be given a shot at inheriting the throne.  However Edward IV decided that the throne would be directly inherited by his sons, Edward and Richard.  To upset his older brothers rule, Clarence spread rumors that Edward IV’s marriage to wife, Elizabeth of York, was a bigamous relationship, claiming that he had been married previously while marrying Elizabeth.  Edward IV had his brother arrested and interrogated.  Under torture Clarence confessed to organizing a rebellion against his brother and used black magic against him to ensure his death.

After packing the courts with judges loyal to him Edward IV personally prosecuted his brother Clarence in a show trial.  Edward had him found guilty and sentenced to be executed.  Rather than being drawn and quartered, the execution method of most traitors in which they are gutted alive, Edward found a more creative way to dispose of his brother.  Clarence was a connoisseur of a certain type of beverage called Malmsey wine.  On the 18th of February 1478 Clarence was dragged from his cell to the execution place.  There before him was a barrel of Malmsey wine.  His head was dunked into the wine and forcefully held down until he expired from drowning.


Lord & Lady Pole, Governors of Ludlow Castle

Richard Pole was a staunch supporter of Henry VII since the early days.  A loyal friend through the tough years of Henry’s exile, the king was secure in Richard’s friendship.  He was bestowed the honor of marrying into the royal family, albeit the Plantagenet side of the family.  Richard, a relative nobody married a princess of the house of York.

Margaret Pole (nee Plantagenet) was born very close to the throne, perhaps too close.  Her father (George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence) was brother to king Edward IV, who’s ambition caused his downfall.  Legend has it he was executed by drowning in a barrel of malmsey wine.  Her mother (Isabel Neville) was daughter to Warwick, the kingmaker.  Her quick decline and early death was attributed to poison.  Margaret’s only brother Edward (17th Earl of Warwick) was imprisoned in the tower of London from the age of ten due to his proximity to the throne.  After the deaths of Clarence and Richard III he was next in line to the throne.  His mere existence was a threat to king Henry and therefore had to be kept out of sight (and out of mind).  His incarceration being so long that some say he lost the ability to interact with others.  He was executed in 1499 for allegedly attempting to plot his escape with Perkin Warbeck (claimed to be Richard of York, missing brother of queen Elizabeth and therefore also a claimant to the throne).

At the time of Henry's ascension to the throne, Margaret had to be placed with a loyal Lancastrian in an attempt to bind both rival factions as the king and queen’s marriage had done.  Margaret being the queen’s first cousin, they were raised closely after the death of her parents and formed a bond more like sisters.  So it is quite fitting that this couple so close to the king and queen would be chosen to look after the prince when he took up residence at his castle of Ludlow.

On this day in history, 21st October 1449, Birth of George Plantagenet,1st Duke of Clarence, Earl of Salisbury and Warwick

He was born in Ireland because his father was serving there as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Out of twelve children George was the 9th child and 6th son (3rd son who survived childhood) of Richard Duke of York and Cecily Neville, he was also brother to the kings Edward IV and Richard III. George married in 1469 Isabel Neville (oldest daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick - ‘The Kingmaker’), together they would have four children, only two of them, Margaret and Edward, would survive childhood. Though a member of the House of York, he switched sides to support the Lancastrians, before reverting to the Yorkists. He was later convicted of treason against his brother, Edward IV, and was executed in 1478 (allegedly by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine).

Pictured: George, Duke of Clarence by Richard Godfrey (1780); David Oakes as George Plantagenet in The White Queen (mini-series, 2013)